Organize Your Work Schedule with an Interruption-Free Hour

With many people working from home, it is important to have time when you’re not interrupted.  Make sure to have a sign or signal that indicates you are unavailable.

Many people realize that multitasking is not the best way to get work completed.  However, they experience many small interruptions in their day, e-mail, texting and phone calls that take away from concentrating on a project.

These small tasks, added together, use up your work day.

“Drive by” conversations, when colleagues stop by your desk, stop you in the hall or a family member bursts into your office and gives you information also take time away from completing important tasks. As well the information may be forgotten or lost.

Being interrupted by colleagues stopping to chat can cost you a lot of valuable time.

Some offices have designated a specific time of the day for working on projects. It is an interruption-free time to concentrate on work during which employees can’t send or answer emails, texts, phone calls, attend meetings, etc.  Each office is different so the designated time may be office-wide or scheduled into each person’s work day, week, or month individually.  It is important that this time and format are respected by your colleagues, family and supported by management.  You may be surprised how much you can get done in one hour without interruptions and your full concentration on one task at a time.

How do you plan on scheduling interruption free time?  Let me know in the comments.

Julie Stobbe, professional organizerulie Stobbe is a Trained Professional Organizer and Lifestyle Organizing Coach who brings happiness to homes and organization to offices, virtually using Zoom. She has been working with clients since 2006 to provide customized organizing solutions to suit their individual needs and situation. She uses her love of teaching to reduce clutter, in your home, office, mind and time. She guides and supports you to be accountable for your time, to complete projects and reach your goals. If you’re in a difficult transition Julie can coach you to break-free of emotional clutter constraining you from living life on your terms. Online courses are available to help instruct, coach and support your organizing projects. Get started by downloading Tips for Reorganizing 9 Rooms.

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  1. David Ryan on February 4, 2015 at 7:03 am

    I don’t want any interruptions when I’m working. I’m easily irritated.

  2. Janet Barclay on March 13, 2017 at 10:12 am

    In my first office job, I used to like going in 30-60 minutes before the office actually opened in order to achieve that interruption-free time. Unfortunately, I had a co-worker who also started early, and she was a chatterbox, so it wasn’t always as productive as I’d hoped!

    • Julie Stobbe on March 14, 2017 at 9:41 am

      That has happened to me too. I think that is why it needs to be a policy so someone can say to a coworker please wait for an hour and have some way to show that they are unavailable right now. If there is a system in place then people wont feel ignored when you don’t respond to them.

  3. Olive Wagar on March 17, 2017 at 6:24 am

    I have found that turning off all notifications helps to eliminate interruptions…or leaving your phone in a different room for a specific time that you are working on a project! It is almost as if we expect to be interrupted rather than setting the stage so we won’t be interrupted.

    • Julie Stobbe on March 21, 2017 at 1:15 pm

      Turning off technology is a great way to decrease interruptions. At times I will not answer the door either if I feel it will cause too much of my time to be used up on that day.

  4. Seana Turner on March 21, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    I think this is a wonderful idea. I imagine most employees would love if their office would instigate “quiet hours.” If the company would require that of everyone, it would be easier for each individual to use… no need to explain why you are “off limits” for the next hour.

    • Julie Stobbe on March 21, 2017 at 1:13 pm

      Even though I work from home, I will do the “quiet hour” where I don’t allow technology to interfere with the work I have planned. I think many managers manage time around meetings fitting in whatever they can between meetings. That impacts the rest of the staff and how they are able to manage their time.

  5. Linda Samuels on January 22, 2024 at 8:46 am

    I love the idea of the ‘do not interrupt’ hour at work. I don’t know a lot of places that do that, but it is a great thing to implement. The toggling between tasks and conversations can be so disruptive. I love the way your chart highlights how we get off task and focus.

    The interruptions in my work day are mostly within my control. However, I can still get pulled sideways. One of the things I find helpful is using timers. I’ll set a timer for a specific duration so I can hyperfocus. When the sound dings, I reevaluate to see if I need more time and reset it. If not, I’ll take a moment to transition and then move on to the next task or appointment. Sometimes, my next activity is stretching or taking a quick walk.

    • Julie Stobbe on January 23, 2024 at 7:39 pm

      The way we work is very similar. When I have a large task to complete I will schedule large blocks of time and use a timer to make sure I take breaks so when I start again I can continue to be able to focus on the same or a new task. I am most easily derailed from my work schedule by email. I need to go through the list once and move onto another task. Too often I go back to the top of the list and notice new emails and work on them. Some days I get trapped by email instead of leaving it for later in the day.

      • Julie Stobbe on January 30, 2024 at 1:32 pm

        I have the email trap problem as well. On days when I am waiting an for answer to an email I find I spend too much time checking instead of leaving it until another time.

  6. Sabrina Quairoli on January 22, 2024 at 9:44 am

    Great post! Microsoft Outlook has a feature that now analyzes your schedule to determine your focus time. It’s interesting since it tells me I have no focus time. That’s because I actually add my focus time as appointments. I guess AI is not quite there yet to understand professional organizers’ and productivity specialists’ schedules. lol

    • Julie Stobbe on January 23, 2024 at 7:41 pm

      I can see how it might be helpful to know your exact focus time if you are “kidding” yourself about how much you are working. I prefer not to know the exact number and evaluate how I feel about what I got accomplished. Thanks for telling me about the tracking with Mircosoft Outlook. I will look at it.

  7. Julie Bestry on January 22, 2024 at 8:48 pm

    I am easily distracted by noise; I can’t have a conversation if there’s music with lyrics playing, and I can’t do anything that requires reading or writing if I can hear someone talking. So, going interruption-free is key to my doing deep work. When I worked in television and had an office, I’d ask the receptionist to send my calls straight to voicemail unless it was an emergency, and close my door, with a note saying that I would come out and check my messages at 50 minutes past the house, and left a stack of sticky notes for people to message me. But I also had an assistant who could triage the issues.

    In my current life, I find that I do a lot of my deep work at night; nobody is going to be calling and interrupting me between 10p and 3a. Beyond that, I have my phone set up to go to voicemail if I don’t answer by the second ring — and I generally don’t answer the phone if I’m not expecting a call and have worked planned. I can check it after I’ve completed two Pomodoros. And yes, I have ALL my notifications turned off.

    I think having an interruption-free hour should be the minimum default. (I need about five of those each day to be productive). The key isn’t just training ourselves, but setting expectations among others that if they are patient, we WILL get back to them, and then make sure we are as good as our word. (Let’s hope we don’t interrupt them!)

    • Julie Stobbe on January 23, 2024 at 7:44 pm

      I also find it hard to concentrate when I hear other people’s voices. I can “tune” out other sounds but voices are difficult. Working from home the interruption free hour is more about not interupping yourself than others interrupting you.

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