Originally posted on the Peoplefluent Blog

do not disturbThe early morning darkness and late October chill pushed up against my office window, as if wanting to break through and swallow me whole. I shivered, wishing I were home still buried in my bed. A fluorescent light flickered and buzzed above me.

I clicked on my desk lamp. No one else was in the office as far as I could tell. This was finally my opportunity to make progress on some of my long overdue projects. I streamed the morning news at a low volume level from my laptop and continued with my work.

“…sporadic reports from overnight about disruptive creatures invading the workplace…”

Wait, what? Disruptive creatures? Are you serious? Halloween pranksters.

“…hours of lost productivity…businesses grind to a halt…”

I closed the streaming radio and continued my work. Minutes passed. Being alone in the office made me feel exposed, as if the walls and roof were one-way mirrors and I was part of some psychological experiment. I rubbed my eyes.

I’m just freaking myself out. Get back to work.

Then, from somewhere out in the dark lobby, I heard a whisper.

“Gotta minute?”

I froze. What the –?

Footfalls. A sniff and a cough.

“Gotta minute?”

The voice was louder this time, upbeat but needy, and difficult to tell whether it was a man or a woman. I felt like a seated statue with only my eyes moving, back and forth, back and forth. My ears burned with the tiniest of sounds.

More footfalls, closer. A clearing throat. A friendly knock on the wall next to my open door.

I jumped, desperately needing to go to the bathroom.

“Gotta minute?”

And then it hit me – the ancient “world of work” lore that had been passed down generation after generation, stories of creatures so hideously disruptive, they could frighten even the most focused of centered employees, every single day, like a “Groundhog Day” zombie apocalypse.

The Gotta-Minute Goblins.

Nothing could stop them. Not silver bullets. Not wooden crosses. Not braids of garlic. Not braining with garden tools. Not exorcism. Nothing.

But they were just scary stories to break the monotony of work, right? Good God, they can’t be real! Can they?!?

It appeared in my doorway – that mythic figure, the demonic productivity destroyer, devourer of time and space, universally despised for decades…

“Hey, Kevin – gotta minute? I just want to pick your brain about something…”

And then there was another.

“Kevin – gotta minute?”

And another.

“Gotta minute.”

And another. And another. And another.

“Nooooooooooooooooooo!!!”

Epilogue

The story you’ve just read is true, only slightly embellished for Halloween. All right – very embellished.

There are unfortunately Gotta-Minute Goblins in every workplace today, but they are harmless, well-meaning folk, not horrible creatures.

They do, however, affect focal strength and productivity everyday. If fact, new research shows unscheduled interruptions at work leave people more exhausted and more prone to make errors.

I’ll leave you with these recommendations on how to deal with not-so-scary Gotta-Minute Goblins and to keep yourself as fresh and focused as possible:

  • When in the office, put up signs for your co-workers that signal you’re knee-deep in project work – Do Not Disturb.
  • Find an empty office or conference room and hunker down in there to work for periods of time. Keep the lights off when possible as not to attract attention.
  • Gotta-minute Goblins also take the form of checking e-mail and your social media accounts. So turn them off when you want to focus.
  • Work from home when possible – but remember, there are Gotta-Minute Goblins everywhere that come in varying shapes and sizes (those of you with kids know what I mean).
  • If it’s your boss, well, you better take that gotta-minute minute. Or hide in the bathroom.

Happy Halloween!