16 Tips for Being Professional as you Say NO to the Chaos Around You

Sonia Di Maulo

The goal is not to minimize distractions but to manage them for positive results. Here are real-life proven techniques that get people talking about how amazing and professional you are AND how you get your work DONE!

Chaos and distractions can be classified into three categories (at least in my world): 1. People distractions (requests, questions, conversations), 2. Workload Madness (many things to do, loss of focus), and 3. Environment (temperature, cubicle-working areas). The tips and techniques below can help you manage distractions in each of these three categories.

Attitude Check

First, you need to confirm that your attitude is right! Check the items below that apply to you. Work on the ones you didn’t check!

1. I realize that distractions are part of the job and all working environments.

2. I am thankful for the distraction (people distractions) and listen carefully.

a. This protrays professionalism, shows you want to listen to assess how you can help
(by fitting it into your schedule or redirecting the request)

3. I realize that people don’t mean to distract me by calling, asking questions, or engaging in

a. They are connecting with me because they also have to get work done or wish to
connect with me on a personal level.
b. It is my responsibility to manage the request and decide how best to address it
(see strategies below) without causing additional frustration.

4. I realize that sometimes it’s impossible to manage the distractions in the way that I have
planned, and I need to go with the flow!

People and Workload Distractions

Unless people know what your communication and workload management strategy is, they probably don’t realize they are distracting you. Here are tips and techniques to help to communicate your boundaries. Again, check the strategies that you do already. Try the ones you didn’t check!

5. I know what my boundaries are. Here are 3 examples:

a. I check e-mail 3 times a day at strategic times so that it does not interfere with my most
mentally productive times.
b. I check voice mail and return phone calls right after lunch and at the end of the day.
c. If I am in meetings all day I will only check e-mail and voice mail the next day.

6. My voicemail and emails state my boundaries and communication strategies. Here are 3

a. I check voice mail and return phone calls right after lunch and at the end of the day.
b. I check e-mail consistently during the day and will return your e-mail within the next 8
c. I am in meetings over the next 3 days and will have limited access to e-mail. If your
message is urgent please resend the e-mail with the word URGENT in the subject line.

7. I turn off e-mail and cell phone notifications (sound and visual) and strategically check
e-mail at specific times or according to my workload demand.

8. When out of the office for work-related meetings, I ask people to resend the message
with the word URGENT in the subject line, for requests that only I can help them with.

a. This helps me better tackle e-mails when I return to the office.

9. During my focused work times, I turn off my ringer and check voicemail and return calls
during a specific communicated time.

10. When I can complete request within 5 minutes, I do it right away.

a.This gets it off my plate quickly, shows reliability, and gives me a sense of

11. When I have a complex or lengthy request (more than 5 minutes to complete), I
schedule the request into my calendar and offer the person a time to get back to them.

a. Bonus: Ask for permission. If the request needs to get done sooner, then you can
discuss options and solutions for getting it done.

Distractions Caused by the Work Environment

Sometimes, it’s not people but the environment that keeps you from getting your work done. Again, check the strategies that you do already. Try the ones you didn’t check!

12. I try to make it fun! At my cubicle (or my office door), I have a simple color system that
lets other people know my work mode (like Messenger). For example:

a. Green Hat (flag, scarf, etc) – Available
b. Orange Hat – Busy, Disturb me for emergencies only
c. Red Hat – On a deadline or on the phone, Do not disturb!

13. When I am too cold at the office:

a. I reach for my warm sweater or favorite blanket!
b. I use the opportunity to make my favorite tea or hot chocolate.

14. When I am too hot at the office:

a. I turn on my mini-fan – the wind is refreshing.
b. I fix my favorite cold drink, like iced tea or ice coffee.

15. With my injury, sometimes pain is a physical and mental distraction! These strategies

a. I take short breaks more frequently to stand, walk around, do exercises, and stretch
(gets the circulation going)!
b. I use my breaks to go for a walk outside, the fresh air and changed perspective help.

16. At the end of every work week (or at the start of my work week), I create a to-do list of
work I will tackle over the next 5 days. As required, I communicate this list with my team, co-
workers, and managers.

With increasing workloads and increased people connections to manage, a strategy to manage distractions helps you, your co-workers and your team to know the rules of engagement and encourages respectful discussions focused on positive results.

Use this checklist and take 15 minutes now to create your strategy for professionally saying No to the chaos around you!