Here’s how to protect your time when you keep getting interrupted at work

Illustration: Ashley Siebels

Once you put out a fire at work, there always seems to be another one looming around the corner, threatening to steal your time away — yet again.

Here’s how to guard your time when you’re dealing with constant interruptions and a full workload.

Do this when your talkative coworker keeps stopping by

If the old headphones trick doesn’t work, try this fix.

It’s called the FlowLight, a “traffic-light like LED” that shows those around you how busy you are at any given moment using the colors red, yellow and green. An app also runs on your computer and indicates your availability online.

Don’t have the resources or the bandwidth for a device like this? Try approaching your nosy coworker face-to-face instead, and communicate how their probing questions can make you feel uneasy. Sometimes being direct is the best way to go, even if it’s far from the easy way out.

Here’s what to do when your work calendar is getting out of control

The meetings can really stack up.

You’ll need to learn how to say “no” to some of those Google Calendar invites and try your best to to only book meetings you really need to attend — if you have the power to do that at work.

Designating certain hours as “off-limits” is another way to communicate to others that you have a lot to get done, and need time to focus.

Here’s what to do when you can’t focus at your desk

Open office plans mean less silence to get your work done — especially when you’re someone who needs it to stay productive.

Try popping in some headphones to tune out the noise, or moving to a conference room to work.

Take advantage of your office’s calendar system and book a room to work in if you’re able to. It might just give you a leg up when coworkers break into a heated debate by your desk about which of the 2018 Oscars nominations will win in each category, or people get riled up over politics.

Here’s how to handle too many emails and Slack messages

Ahh, the elusive inbox zero.

As emails stack up and Slack messages vie for your attention throughout the day, it’s easy to get lost in the constant stream of communication from coworkers and supervisors.

Research has found that the average employee’s email inbox harbors an average of 199 unread messages, and the only way to a achieve a clean inbox is to go directly through it, so engage in a ruthless deleting session when appropriate.

Also, respond as soon as possible — it has been suggested you reply within an hour of receiving emails and setting response deadlines for ones you can’t address right away.

Slack got you down? Try logging out or closing your tab for a moment if you get distracted by the icon showing you have new messages, or someone wrote in a channel.

Give your colleagues a heads up that you’ll be taking a timeout for a specified period of time, but give them an alternative method of communicating with you should something come up.

Jane Burnett|is a reporter for Ladders and can be reached at jburnett@theladders.com.