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Imagine this, you have worked the entire morning analyzing a problem, you are about to reach the solution and suddenly the phone rings. It’s a very kind lady offering you another life insurance that you don’t need.  You try to finish the call and say goodbye to her as politely as you can, trying not to be on the phone for more than two minutes. Immediately you try to resume the task you were working on but then you wonder… “Where was I? In which line was I supposed to stop the debug? What was the variable that I needed to check?  It’s already too late.

Managing to get back to the point you were at may take you another couple of hours. You finally get back in tune, but then the phone rings again. This time it’s a colleague who kindly wants to run ahead the e-mail notification and warn you that he has just sent you an important e-mail.  You try to say goodbye to him politely, trying not to be on the phone for more than two minutes, and try to resume the task you were working on immediately, but then you wonder… “Where was I? In which line was I supposed to stop the debug? What was the variable that needed to check? It’s already too late.


I’m sure that you’ve felt that “déjà vu” sensation at some point, haven’t you?


It is a fact.  Our environment is filled with noise and distractions everywhere.  Chats, phone calls, e-mail pop-ups, notifications, social networks and surely another large number of distractions is being created right in this moment. For those who work in marketing or customer care, this can be a world of opportunities, but for those of us who work in software development this can be a nightmare. 


We waste precious time and energy dealing with these constant distractions while struggling to get our work done, feeling increasingly exhausted as the day goes by. At the end of a day like this you might end up with the phrase: I think that I did so much today, that in the end I did nothing at all. The worst part is that this scene is repeated day after day and then you get to the weekend with a sense of guilt that takes away your chance to rest, because next week the exact same thing will happen again.


Are you overwhelmed by all that noise and spam that is generated in our workplaces, in our lives? How do you manage to prevent it from stealing your valuable time and even from not letting you sleep at night?


You can find lots of blogs about this subject, with magic tips, tricks and lists of 4, 5, 10, 20 or more rules. I really don’t know if they are useless or not. I prefer asking you, my colleagues, because you really are trustworthy.

If you have managed to overcome this, please tell us how did you do it? A single message can save our jobs and even our lives.  😆

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21 Comments

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  1. Alessandro Iannacci

    Nice blog! Here some advice that I follow 🙂

    Whatsapp -> group notifications off (this is forever not just during work!)

    During debug -> phone in dnd mode + headphones with as much noisy music as possible

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    1. DAIRO LEONARDO LOZANO RODRIGUEZ Post author

      Hi Alessandro.  Thanks for your advice !


      I’ve tried the listen music trick to but sometimes office has been so noisy and I’ve had to put the volume so high that I’ve been afraid of getting a hearing disability.

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  2. Ankit Maskara

    Dear Diaro,

    You have very aptly put what happens with us(S/W Developers) day in and day out. I still experience it quite frequently 😛 .

    I listen to music to cut off surrounding chat, take quicker

    and lesser tea/coffee breaks, and keep notepad and Snag it open whenever I am doing something critical and before picking calls/going out I take a snapshot or note down the point where I was before leaving.

    Every occupation has some hazards and this is ours.!!!

    BR.

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    1. DAIRO LEONARDO LOZANO RODRIGUEZ Post author

      Hi Ankit. Thanks for your response.


      I agree.  I’ve tried the listen music trick to but sometimes office has been so noisy and I’ve had to put the volume so high that I’ve been afraid of getting a hearing disability. 

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      1. Reinaldo Nunez

        Dairo, or Dario as I know it? ;- That was my complaint; however I took the advice of changing music taste and instead of listening to my prefer one now I listen to classic music, or any classic deviation as alternative or hard rock interpreted by a classic orchestra. Impossible to get hearing disability on the headphone while listening to this.

        I hope it helps, Reinaldo

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        1. Steven Coombs

          Hi Reinaldo,

          It’s interesting you say this. A most useful tip I picked up from my teaching days was to play some baroque music, not too loudly, in the background during exercise preparation time in the classroom. This of course equates to serious worktime in the office.

          The baroque music gives an indication of of passing time, there are no lyrics to distract (or sing along to either), and the tempo typically corresponds to a human heartbeat at rest and calms the listener down in a biofeedback loop.

          So, by listening to baroque music, you can simultaneously avoid distractions, work at a natural rhythm, and be relaxed.

          I’d call that a win!

          Cheers,

          Steve

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  3. Ravi Sankar Venna

    Good blog Diaro.

    The real work is only 5% remaining is discussions, phone calls, meetings, updates, unnecessary email. This is how the whole world is surviving. You will find 1% are the real workers and the remaining 99% would be there to monitor the 1% people without knowing anything. That is the saddest part of our lives 🙂

    Best Regards,

    Ravi

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  4. Anjan Paul

    Nice blog.  I prefer to maintain work life balance in long run. If we are not sleeping  good  continuously for long weeks. May  be very soon our productivity will started decreasing as well as we will start loosing our  friends, family connection.  Then try to switch our job or company and take a little break.

    Thanks,

    Anjan

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  5. Aspire WF

    Hi Dairo,

    Great post! Echoes very closely with our daily lives.

    Personally i use below options @ work to deal with distractions(Although its not a fix-it-all solution, still it does come handy at several occasions)

    1) GAlwaysidle software – This is a cool software which takes less than 3MB space that i have been using for years. We can set our gtalk status as always idle, always available etc… Since its a mandate for me to be logged in to official gmail, always idle status saves my day. This way, most of my colleagues trying to reach me for petty things assume that i am not @ my desk and don’t steal my valuable work time.

    2) Save breakpoints feature in new debugger – This comes really handy while debugging standard code gets stretched across several days coz of constant distractions. http://scn.sap.com/community/abap/testing-and-troubleshooting/blog/2010/11/10/new-abap-debugger-tips-and-tricks#jive_content_id_How_to_handover_a_debugger_problem__Use_Debugger_Variants

    3) Once i get a call from annoying insurance/from ad calls from service provider, i make it a point to block their number right away. That saves my time when they try to reach me again.

    4) Opt for work from home option (when possible) when task in hand requires long hours of constant focus. This is not granted always, but i leverage it whenever possible.

    BR,

    Aspire

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  6. Hasnaa Abdelghani

    Same suffer !! I don’t work I’m in my senior year and distraction are every where street noise family discussion and my very own self made distractions.

    I am still looking for a kind of ultimate solution but these helped me study better:

    *Close any surrounding door trust me it makes a difference.

    *WiFi off.

    *Don’t just answer!! When a friend asks me and I keep silent he knows am thinking. they will take time to get used to it but then they will know that it’s your nature and they will wait.

    *Ads calls short polite answer:

    A.I am currently in the middle of something can you call me in an hour/ send it by mail

    B. I have already received a call thank you “my favorite”.

    *liaberary or study rooms “my life saver!” Change the place the whole environment!

    These are my current solutions some of which I can achieve others not yet.. I will update new tips if any

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  7. Reinaldo Nunez

    Dairo, while music is an alternative, the option that I use more often is this:

    .- I set a meet to myself for two hours in my office

    .- Regardless the option above is used or not, I set my corporate messenger system as BUSY  –  with this I see people in my way to the restroom and they said “I’ve an important question for you this morning, but you have set your status to busy and I didn’t want to interrup” *** This is awesome ***

    .- As extreme measure, an since my office got light sensor motion with glass windows to the interior, I turn off the light *** People seems to think I’m not there and therefor they don’t stop to ask questions.

    Again

    I hope it helps

    Reinaldo Nunez

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  8. Idrees Mohammed

    Hi Dairo

    Nicely wrote

    Actually  u can manage easily, No need to do any changes in your Phones

    Check our phone at the following times only :

    At lift

    At Canteen

    or

    At Cab

    I have 2 cell

    1 is smart phone for social use n updated  & another is normal without internet which has my personal number


    So i think  u should also get one a nice normal phone

    Its help me a lot

    Regards

    M.Idrees

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  9. Paolo Baruffaldi

    Hi Dairo,

    I am a lover of the “headphones solution“, I am also used to switch off / close all the apps, all the notification services on desktop and cellphone.

    I try to work focusing on one thing at the time, but that’s not easy, especially because I have to work with a lot of people about a lot of things and people talks together, and things do things together, interactions causing a lot of caos… and e-mails…

    At the start of the work hours I usually make a “must do today” list…well, I don’t remember a day ended with all the “must do today” tasks completed, but this lists is however useful.

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  10. Mike Taylor

    Hey Dairo, I think we all come up against this.  To combat distraction I have no e-mail alerts and my cellphone ringer is always turned off.  I have a VOIP line through my computer which is my direct line and that will ring, but I let it ring if it isn’t important or if I’m in the middle of a task.  My voicemail message clearly states that e-mail is the best way to get ahold of me and provides the e-mail address.  I purposefully made the VM message long so people would be more inclined to e-mail me.  I check my e-mails periodically throughout the day in between tasks.  This process helps me to stay focused.  Usually I can do my task, switch back to e-mail, fire off two or three easy replies, go back to my work and stay working for a while.  Losing track of where you left off can lead to critical errors which cause so much wasted time.  Nice article, thanks!

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  11. Venkateswaran Krishnamurthy

    Nice Blog Dairo,

    Reality in everyone life. I often get disconnected from what I was doing  not only from phone and email… but also from skype, unplanned discussion  by collegues who suddenly peep in your desk/cabin and start asking questions / clarifications etc.etc..

    No solution for this except for keep all of them in mute. 

    Sometimes, I physically put Donot disturb tag as well  🙂

    Venkat

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  12. Ankit Bansal

    Hi Dairo,

    Very aptly described the daily situation faced by software developers, especially in today’s environment and culture where colleagues often demoralize you if you try to concentrate on work. My advice is to put on some light music and try to zone out the disturbances. Just don’t concentrate on them. Keep a notepad with you and keep writing every step you do. This helps a great deal to remember as well as concentrate better.
    Happy coding!! Cheers! 🙂

    Ankit

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  13. Dominik Trui

    What I do to avoid interruptions:

    • Don’t accept a phone call when I am in a train of thoughts. No one has ever said something as I don’t mention it that I was busy 🙂
    • Let a new Lync window blinking till I have the time or even go into invisible or do not disturb mode beforehands
    • As mails are even more asynchronous I even care less about interruptions from them
    • When someone comes in and I need one or two minutes more to finish the actual part / task, I just say that I need some more time. Works also before going to lunch or home.
    • My boss even encourages us to book a room if we need an hour or two. We did that when upgrading from IdM 7.1 to 7.2 last year. Haven’t done it since as our office room is a bitt offside the main rooms. Lucky choice

    Yet, it’s kind of rare that I really lose my train of thoughts as I either write down my steps beforehand (Notepad++ or a MS-SQL Studio tab, whatever comes in handy) or have them sorted in my mind already that far that they are predefined and I just need to “save” where I was. Works usually in split seconds for me (or do you write in a split second?).

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