Most people spend more time with their colleagues than with their families. Colleagues can be some of the finest people you will ever meet, and they can also drive you crazy if you just need to get some work done. Follow these tips if you need to stop Gossipy George or Chatty Kathy from interrupting you all day. 

Be Honest and Firm

Sometimes the simplest solutions are the best. Just tell your colleagues that you really need to concentrate and ask them to come back later. 

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Work Elsewhere

Sometimes, offices are the worst places to get focused work done. Studies show that working in a coffee shop with consistent background sound (read: white noise) can help you focus more than in a cramped office where you must listen to every word of Bob’s telephone conversation. 

Stake Out a Quiet Spot

If you can’t leave the office, lay claim to quiet spots where you can sit with your laptop. Think unused meeting rooms, supply rooms, or even outdoor spaces next to your building. 

Get a Cone of Silence  

No, really — buy a large traffic cone, or some other big, colorful object, and place it on your desk when you need to concentrate. Tell your colleagues that when the cone is on your desk, you can only be interrupted for emergencies. If you want to try this, you must be ruthless about enforcing it. If you talk to people when the cone is on your desk, you’ll lose credibility, and people will go back to bothering you all the time. 

Schedule Social Time

Talking with colleagues informally is important to foster relationships, build friendships, and to relax and reset. Informal conversations can also be a source of fantastic business ideas. Schedule time for coffee, lunch, or after-work socializing with your co-workers. Then, when they interrupt you, simply say, “I’ve got to focus right now, but we’ll pick this up at coffee on Tuesday!”

With your interrupting colleagues out of the way, it’s time to focus on working smarter, not harder. Next time, we’ll look at how.