Managing distraction: "library rules" before 11 a.m.
The Wayne State Web department consists of ten people sitting at their desks in an open room in the middle of the marketing department, typically with the lights off. Each member of the team typically has fifteen tasks for the day and forty tasks assigned for upcoming dates. As you can imagine it can be hard to focus on the tasks at hand with people walking through the area or with even a one-on-one conversation happening at the desk next to you.
# We try to manage these distractions by:
Wearing headphones - Being lost in our own music drowns out any other noise around.
Keeping the lights off - Reduces peripheral vision so we can focus on our screens and reduce the likelihood of noticing someone walk by.
Not having printers - No one in the Web group has a printer, we never have, and the rare time we do print we send it to a central printer in a different area of the department. This reduces noise and people just waiting around.
Reducing the number of phones - We only have three phones for the twelve total staff members. We do most of our support via email or Basecamp. But if someone does call, we have a single number answered by one person who can field the question and only interrupt another staff member if necessary.
"Library rules" before 11 a.m. - It's simple: respect everyone's time, space, productivity, just as you would in a library, (opens new window) before 11 a.m.
# First things first
The video above, although not the most comprehensive, explains the crux of the problem. With so many tasks, projects and competing priorities it's easy to get lost in the thick of the thin. We work diligently to not only develop personal tactics to stay productive but also an environment that focuses on completing those big or important tasks first.
Before 11 a.m. we collectively work to accomplish our most important item(s) for the day. We try to keep it to one thing, but you would be amazed how productive you are if you are not interrupted. Just try it for a week.