Indistractable Chapter 14

Chapter 14, Hack Back Work Interruptions

Eyal opens the chapter discussing hospital errors, especially in wrong medication or dosage supplied. It turned out that nurses were interrupted multiple times while dispensing medication, leading to errors and adverse effects to patients. To solve the issue, one hospital instituted a vest that a nurse would wear to signify that he or she is dispensing medication and is to not be bothered. The new program didn't have many proponents, as the vests were uncomfortable and often, doctors that didn't know about the program often would interrupt the nurses, asking about the vests. However, over time the nurses didn't get interrupted and the hospital saw 88% fewer errors over three years suggesting that rough start didn't deter actual results.

My workplace has something similar - signs at the entrances of cubicles that signify "Please come in" which is colored green, "Busy" which is colored yellow, and "Do Not Disturb" which is colored red. The three signs signal the allowed interruption - either, "Go ahead and interrupt", "I'd prefer no interruptions unless it's work related and important", and "Do not bother me unless it is a critical issue that only I can help solve". Unfortunately, the signs don't work. I recall changing my sign to "Do Not Disturb" since I was working on a very tedious project that needed full attention, and a coworker stopped by, saw my sign and whispered, "Red!", breaking my concentration. People now don't change their signs, or just remove them altogether since they're so often ignored.

One of my coworkers used to put a chair in the middle of her cubicle entrance and drape her vining plant around the entrance, and even then it didn't always work. Perhaps there needs to be a cultural change for the signs that we put up to be sure they are followed. Maybe some sort of gentle electric shock at the entrance of cubicles for people who interrupt.

It's a shame that I can't agree or expound on ideas that work, because in my workplace, most of us still get interrupted. I like the electric shock idea, though.

Chapter Summary:

Interruptions lead to mistakes. You can't do your best work if you're frequently distracted.
Open-office floor plans increase distractions.
Defend your focus. Signal when you do not want to be interrupted. Use a screen sign of some other clear cue to let people know you are indistractable.


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