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Dealing with Interruptions

I have two colleagues who drop into my office every hour or two and want to chat with me for a minute.  I believe it's part of their socializing program, because they either want to chat about rubbish or the same old subject as yesterday.

When I'm not doing serious coding, I think it's OK and chat with them out of politeness.  If I'm deep into some hacking, I am just irritated and don't know if I should just blow them off or be the polite collegue and do as they please.

What is the best strategy?  Right now, I tend to be the grumpy one and brisk them off.

Programmus Interruptus
Sunday, November 30, 2003

Close the door when you need to concentrate.

Explain it before hand, so they don't start to speculate about why you're closing the door.

It works. Really.

Ori Berger
Sunday, November 30, 2003

Be straight with them.  Most people can handle it.  (hopefully).  Just tell them you're deep into a problem, and you'll have time to talk later.  If they get huffy, and can't take it, well then I don't know what to do :)  Maybe someone else will have a better answer.

Just be polite though, and let them know you're busy.  I don't see why they'd mind.

Andrew Hurst
Sunday, November 30, 2003

I agree with Andrew, be straight with them.  Just a simple, "I'm busy, please come back later unless this is urgent or critical".  If pressed for an explanation, tell them you're deep in the middle of a complex problem and need to focus.

If they still don't get it, they are acting like ten-year-olds and it's appropriate to treat them that way.  "Have you ever been working really hard on something complex and had someone interrupt you?  And then you get back to what you're doing and you have forgotten where you were?  Wasn't that frustrating?  Okay, well I need to concentrate to get through what I'm working on here, and being interrupted will break my concentration.  I would really appreciate it if you would come back later when I'm finished with this.  In fact by then I'll probably be glad of the break.  Okay?"


Sunday, November 30, 2003

Another vote for being straight with these co-workers and defining some way to indicate to them that you're off-limits.

What's those figures I keep reading that state how many minutes it takes for a programmer to enter "the zone" and develop the deep concentration needed to do actual, real development work? Something like 45 minutes on average, isn't it?

99% of the management subhuman race is oblivious to this fact, but other programmers should easily "buy" a clue and be considerate.

Bored Bystander
Sunday, November 30, 2003

I agree, you're too afraid of offending. You'll probably be surprised how understanding they'll be if you simply tell them from time to time that you're busy and can't be interrupted.

If you're still afraid of offending them, drop by their offices/cubicles later that day and ask them what it was they wanted to talk to you about. Maybe suggest going out to a bar after work, or going to lunch.

You're not rejecting them, you're doing your job.
Sunday, November 30, 2003

Heh. Years ago when I worked in an office I had an office-mate who wanted to jabber incessantly when I was deepy focused. One day this guy starts his tirade and I blew him off.

Absolute silence immediately follows. I turn around and see a GIGANTIC (3' tall) drawing of a hand giving a middle finger (to me) drawn on the whiteboard. The guy was nowhere to be found. Probably nursing his fifth of Wild Turkey somewhere else in the building at 9:30 AM.

So, some people may be "offended"....

Bored Bystander
Sunday, November 30, 2003

And those people you shouldn't worry about offending, they'd find something they didn't like about you eventually.
Sunday, November 30, 2003

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