4 Ways to Politely Stop People From Distracting You

Last Updated Jun 21, 2010 8:50 PM EDT

My office is abuzz with highly interactive people. Writers and editors are always coming into my office -- sometimes for valid work reasons, sometimes just to chat. Either way, they're distracting, and their needs are often a far lower priority than what I need to work on at that very minute.

Here are 4 strategies I use to keep them at arm's length, so I can get my own work done.


Use Outlook's Autoresponder. The "out of office" autoresponder in Outlook isn't just for when you're sick or on vacation. Use it to let people know that you're heads-down in a project and won't respond to email or phone calls today.

Dedicate "Me" Time. Use Outlook to schedule "meetings" through the day that block out time to do meaningful work. When people try to schedule time with you, they'll have to work around the hours you've dedicated to yourself. And when you think about it, isn't that a lot better than the usual approach, which is letting everyone else have first pick of any times they like from your day? It's your day - take it back.

Get fake meeting reminders. Likewise, if you get pestered with a lot of random walk-ins, be sure to schedule "meetings" in advance so you can, when your phone or PC dings, say "sorry - gotta run to a meeting!"

Wear Headphones. I listen to music at work, and I've discovered a fascinating aspect of human psychology as a result. If I close my door to play music through my PC speakers, the door is a very low barrier to entry - folks knock and walk right in. But if I don headphones, there's some sort of perception that visitors are violating "private time," and they'll come back later. I hate cords, so I wear wireless stereo Bluetooth headphones to listen to music on my iPhone.

Photo by carolyn.will