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Please do not disturb!

How to identify and combat time thieves

Identify disturbances

The first important step is to identify how I am being disturbed. What disturbs me when? And what happens after I have been interrupted? Make a note of all disturbances over a couple of days. It's important to record whether you cause the disturbance yourself or whether it comes from outside. The resulting log allows you to identify the most important personal time thieves and disturbances quickly.

Don't take on too much

You're already accustomed to a specific working pattern. Don't change too many things at once as that could lead to confusion. Address and minimise each disturbance one step at a time. Some adjustments will be successful, while with others you'll realise it worked better before.

Question your own attitude

People who feel disturbed and focus intently on it experience the disturbance as greater than it actually is. Find strategies to help you break out of this vicious cycle. Does your colleague talk loudly on the telephone? Use that time to have a break or put your headphones on instead of getting worked up. It is important to accept even unpleasant disturbances. There is no such thing as the perfect, undisturbed workplace.

Not all disturbances can be avoided

Be aware that you are always dependent on other people. You can't hide from your colleagues or ignore their phone calls. It's also crucial here to choose the strategies that work best for you. Perhaps it's possible for you to work from home every now and then. Make use of this to get important work done in the absence of common workplace disturbances.

Encourage others

You are not alone with your time thieves. Many struggle with everyday distractions. Start a 'Down with the time thieves' initiative at work and join forces to tackle time thieves that are common to all. Arrange to chat less during working time and to save conversations until the break or have them in the break room instead.

Take breaks!

Breaks are important. They help restore your energy levels. It makes sense to take a short break every 30 minutes, or change what you are doing at the latest when your concentration starts waning. This will let you get back to work refreshed. There are plenty of other ways to limit time thieves. Identify the ways that work best for you and stick to them. To finish, here are five tips that are easy to put into practice.

Five quick and easy tips to combat time thieves:

Make a note of the work that needs to be done today. Cross a piece of work off your list once it is done. 

Put your mobile phone away (if possible). Don't answer text messages or other 'news' for a certain period. 

Turn off email notifications. No email has to be answered immediately. 

If possible, and if it makes sense, work with your headphones on, with or without music. This also shows others that you do not want to be disturbed. A good tip is Focusatwill, which plays calming music for a specified period of time to help you concentrate. 

Tidy your desk at the end of the day. That gives you a good start to the next day.

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