Avoiding “Unavoidable” Interruptions


September 18th, 2011

By Leslie Rouder, LCSW, CHt.

When I first thought of writing this post, it was with the idea of providing people with ADD ways to get back on track after unavoidable interruptions, since I was recently asked to address this problem in my blog postings.  But the more I really started thinking about all the possible answers, the more I realized that there is no best way to get back on track if you have ADD and are interrupted.  This is because interruptions may make completing a task or project extremely difficult (and nearly impossible) for many people with ADD  to get back on track in a timely fashion. Now I understand that this is not very comforting to hear, but it is often the reality of the situation.

According to what research has shown, the average person working in an office is interrupted approximately every 8 minutes. (That’s over 50 times per day) In addition, the average person (without ADHD) takes 5 minutes to recover. That is over 4 hours a day, spent being interrupted and recovering. It would seem to me that almost anyone living in this fast paced life style (with or without ADD) might feel rather unproductive and a bit frustrated with the amount of unforeseen interruptions one encounters throughout the day. For this reason, my best advice on the idea of  unavoidable interruptions is to find ways to avoid them.

So the next question is how?

  • Make a list of what it is that you need to accomplish for the day.  Keep it to no more than 3 tasks.
  • Block out a segment of time that you will require to do this.
  • If you are in a distracting environment and can go elsewhere, find an alternative place that you can go to, where you will not be interrupted for this segment of time.  I have a client that goes to Denny’s (drinks several cups of excellent coffee) and studies for hours.  As an alternative, she will go to the beach and study by the ocean. 
  • If you are at home or in your office, turn off cell phones, or any electronics that are not necessary to the completion of your task that may distract you.  Turn the volume off of your computer so that you are not hearing when new e mails arrive.  
  • If you are in your office at work or at home, delegate tasks to others for the time segment that you have blocked out.  Put up a sign on your door saying “Do Not Disturb” and explain to your fellow workers or household members that you need their help in providing you this designated amount of uninterrupted time.
  • Use either ear plugs to block out noise or use static noise, background music, or TV sounds to help you stay focused.  Some people do better with no sounds, while others need background noise.
  • Keep plenty of water or snacks nearby, so that you do not get distracted by feeling thirsty or hungry while completing your work.
  • Some people work better alone, while others work better with a “body double”. (Someone in the room with them, which helps keep them on track) Find what works best for you and do it. 

Although there is no perfect solution to avoiding interruptions, if you use some of the above suggestions, I am sure you will be amazed at how much more productive you can be.  If there are other suggestions that you have found helpful and would like to share, please let me know.  I would love to hear how you have handled unavoidable interruptions effectively in your life.