既然你的老板不在这4%之列，那么解决问题只能靠你自己了。“当有人打个电话或顺道过来转转说：‘能占用你一分钟时间吗？’时，一切看起来似乎合情合理，”即将出版的《降服时间大盗：找回被偷走的宝贵时间》（The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had）一书的作者艾德•布朗说。“但一旦思路被打断，你就很难再找回来。通常情况下，你只有从头再开始。这不仅是时间的巨大浪费，甚至还会造成更多的压力。”
布朗是科恩布朗管理集团（Cohen Brown Management Group）的联合创始人，这家公司一直在为美林证券（Merrill Lynch）、花旗银行（Citibank）和保诚保险（Prudential）这些从事金融服务业的客户提供时间管理咨询服务。布朗表示，在很多大公司，人们有40%至60%的工作时间会慢慢消耗在分心的事物上，尤其是来自于同事的干扰。他将这样的同事称之为“时间大盗”。根据布朗的观察，“老板通常是最恶劣的违规者，因为身为员工，你会觉得自己无法开口拒绝。”
Dear Annie: I work in an office that used to be a "cube farm," which was noisy and distracting enough, but now we've gone to an "open plan" layout where there are no walls at all between workstations. This is supposed to make collaboration and teamwork easier, but some people seem to think it means they can bother co-workers at any time with any dumb little question or the latest tidbit of office gossip or whatever.
The problem is, with the constant flood of emails, texts, phone messages, and now in-person interruptions, it's almost impossible to concentrate for more than a minute or two. I like my boss, but he's the biggest distraction, dropping by my desk five or six times a day to, as he says, "check in." Can you suggest any way to tell people (especially the boss) to buzz off, without being rude about it? -- At Wit's End
Dear A.W.E.: You're not the only one struggling with this. Consider: Almost 70% of senior managers say "the overwhelmed employee" -- bombarded with information and interruptions all day long -- is an "urgent" or "very important" drag on productivity, according to the 2014 Human Capital Trends Study from Deloitte Consulting. Drawing on a poll of about 2,500 managers in 90 countries, the report says that only about 4% of companies have so far come up with any kind of policy or program to address this.
Since your employer doesn't seem to be one of those few, it's up to you. "When someone calls or drops by and says, 'Got a minute?' it seems so reasonable,"notesEd Brown, author of a forthcoming book, The Time Bandit Solution: Recovering Stolen Time You Never Knew You Had."But once your train of thought has been disrupted, it's very hard to get that momentum back. Often, you have to start a task over from the beginning, which is a big waste of time and causes even more stress."
Brown is co-founder of Cohen Brown Management Group, which has done time-management consulting for financial services industry clients like Merrill Lynch, Citibank (C), and Prudential (PRU). He says that at many big companies between 40% and 60% of people's time gets frittered away on distractions, especially from colleagues he calls time bandits. "Bosses are often the worst offenders," Brown observes, "because you feel you can't say no."
Or can you? Since it's a safe bet that most, if not all, of your coworkers would also like to cut down on distractions, Brown suggests you all get together and agree on a system of what he calls Time Locks -- blocks of time at specific hours during the day (say, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) when you can focus on the work you're supposed to be doing.
Getting everyone to agree to this takes some negotiation, Brown acknowledges. But convincing your officemates to make up a schedule with blocks of interruption-free time is often "a simple matter of going over the benefits to each of you," he says. Brown has seen teams and departments try it for a week or two and get so much more productive, and less stressed-out, that they've made Time Locks a permanent fixture.
Moreover, Brown says, getting your boss on board and persuading him to limit his "check-ins," as you say, "is not as risky as people think it's going to be. The key is to emphasize that, if you can focus exclusively on your work during certain hours of the day, you'll be more productive, and it will help him meet his own deadlines. Time Locks are really to the benefit of managers, because bosses pay for the interruptions they cause, whether they realize it or not."
What if he keeps "checking in" anyway? Then it's time for Plan B, described in detail (with a script, no less) in The Time Bandit Solution. Suggest a time to get together and talk after you've finished what you're working on. Brown's own subordinates, all Time Lock devotees, usually make appointments to sit down with him, saying something like, "I'll be working on the Ostrich project until four o'clock. Is it okay if I call you then?" As a manager, he says, "it would be foolish of me to interfere with their productivity."
Maybe so, but Brown acknowledges that he's seen a few bosses who just can't or won't honor Time Locks. If yours is one of them, "unless you're independently wealthy, simply drop what you're doing and say, 'How can I help?'"
One more thought: Taking back control of your time may mean changing some of your own habits. Deloitte's research shows that the average attention span among businesspeople now is about seven minutes -- in part because the average person checks his or her cell phone almost 150 times a day. If you decide to try Brown's approach to banishing interruptions, you might want to turn off your phone during your Time Locks, too. It's worth a try.
Talkback: If you've tried to cut down on distractions at the office, what has worked for you, and what hasn't? Leave a comment below.