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Work Interruption Analysis

This is the interruption analysis report applied to my everyday work.

I've identified the next interruption sources:

Physical interruptions

Physical interactions are when someone comes to your desk and expect you to attend them immediately. These interruptions can be categorized as:

The obvious solution is to remote work as much as possible. It's less easy for people to interrupt through digital channels than physically.

It goes the other way around too. Be respectful to your colleagues and try to use asynchronous communications as much as possible, so they can manage when they attend you.

Asking for help

These interruptions are the most difficult to delay, as it's hard to tell a person to wait when it's already in front of you. If you don't take care of them you may end up in the situation where you can receive 5 o 6 interruptions per minute which can drive you crazy. By definition all these events require an immediate action. The priority and delay may depend on many factors, such as the person or moment.

The first thing I'd do is make a mental prioritization of the people that interrupt you, to decide which ones do you accept and which ones you need to regulate. Once you have it, work on how to assertively tell them that they need to reduce their interruptions. You can agree with them a non interruption time where they can aggregate and prepare all the questions so you can work through them efficiently. Often they are able to answer most of them themselves. The length of the period needs to be picked wisely as you want to be interrupted the minimum number of times while you don't make them loose their time trying to solve something you could work out quickly.

Other times it's easier to forward them to the team's interruption manager.

Social interactions

Depending how popular you are, you'll have more or less of these interactions. The way I've found to be able to be in control of them is by scheduling social events in my calendar and introducing them in my task management workflow. For example, we agree to go to have lunch all together at the same hour every day, or I arrange a coffee break with someone every Monday at a defined hour.


Email can be used as one of the main aggregators of interruptions as it's supported by almost everything. I use it as the notification of things that don't need to be acted upon immediately or when more powerful mechanisms are not available. In my case emails can be categorized as:

  • General information: They don't usually require any direct action, so they can wait more than 24 hours.
  • Support to internal agents: At work, we have decided that email is not to be used as the internal main communication channel, so I don't receive many and their priority is low.
  • Support to external agents: I'm lucky to not have many of these and they have less priority than internal people so they can wait 4 or more hours.
  • Infrastructure notifications: For example LetsEncrypt renewals or cloud provider notification or support cases. The related actions can wait 4 hours or more.
  • Calendar events: Someone creates a new meeting, changes an existing one or confirms/declines its assistance. We have defined a policy that we don't create or change events with less than 24 hours notice, and in the special cases that we need to, they will be addressed in the chat rooms. So these mails can be read once per day.
  • Monitorization notifications: We've configured Prometheus's alertmanager to send the notifications to the email as a fallback channel, but it's to be checked only if the main channel is down.
  • Source code manager notifications: The web where we host our source code sends us emails when there are new pull requests or when there are comments on existent ones. I automatically mark them as read and move them to a mail directory as I manage these interruptions with other workflow.
  • The CI sends notifications when some job fails. Unless it's a new pipeline or I'm actively working on it, a failed job can wait four hours broken before I interact with it.
  • The issue tracker notifications: It sends them on new or changed issues. At work, I filter them out as I delegate it's management to the Scrum Master.

In conclusion, I can check the work email only when I start working, on the lunch break and when I'm about to leave. So its safe to disable the notifications.

I'm eager to start the email automation project so I can spend even less time and willpower managing the email.


We've agreed that the calls are the communication channel used only for critical situations, similar to the physical interruptions, they are synchronous so they're more difficult to manage.

As calls are very rare and of high priority, I have my phone configured to ring on incoming calls.

Have a work phone independent of your personal

Nowadays you can have phone contracts of 0$/month used only to receive calls.

Remember to give it to the fewer people as possible.

Instant messages

It's the main internal communication channel, so it has a great volume of events with a wide range of priorities. They can be categorized as:

  • Asking for help through direct messages: We don't have many as we've agreed to use groups as much as possible. So they have high priority and I have the notifications enabled.
  • Social interaction through direct messages: I don't have many as I try to arrange one on one meetings instead, so they have a low priority. As notifications are defined for all direct messages, I inherit the notifications from the last category.
  • Team group or support rooms: We've defined the interruption role so I check them whenever an chosen interruption event comes. If I'm assuming the role I enable the notifications on the channel, if not I'll check them whenever I check the application.
  • Information rooms: They have no priority and can be checked each 4 hours.

In conclusion, I can check the work chat applications each pomodoro cycle or when I receive a direct notification until the improve the notification management in Linux project is ready.

Calendar events

Often with a wide range of priorities.

  • decide if you have to go
  • Define an agenda with times

Last update: 2021-05-26