The relativity of time at work.

Interruption is the enemy of productivity

If you're constantly staying late and working weekends, it's not because there's too much work to be done. It's because you're not getting enough done at work. And the reason is interruptions.

Think about it: When do you get most of your work done? If you're like most people, it's at night or early in the morning. It's no coincidence that these are the times when nobody else is around.

At 2 p.m., people are usually in a meeting or answering e-mail or chatting with colleagues. Those taps on the shoulder and little impromptu get-togethers may seem harmless, but they're actually corrosive to productivity. Interruption is not collaboration, it’s just interruption. And when you're interrupted, you're not getting work done.

Interruptions break your workday into a series of work moments. Forty-five minutes and then you have a call. Fifteen minutes and then you have lunch. An hour later, you have an afternoon meeting. Before you know it, it's five o'clock, and you've only had a couple uninterrupted hours to get your work done. You can't get meaningful things done when you're constantly going start, stop, start, stop.

Instead, you should get in the alone zone. Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive. When you don't have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done. (Ever notice how much work you get done on a plane since you’re offline and there are zero outside distractions?)

Getting into that zone takes time and requires avoiding interruptions. It's like REM sleep: You don't just go directly into REM sleep. You go to sleep first and then make your way to REM. Any interruptions force you to start over. And just as REM is when the real sleep magic happens, the alone zone is where the real productivity magic happens.

Your alone zone doesn't have to be in the wee hours, though. You can set up a rule at work that half the day is set aside for alone time. Decree that from 10 a.m. to 2p.m., people can't talk to each other (except during lunch). Or make the first or last half of the day your alone-time period. Or instead of casual Fridays, try no-talk Thursdays. Just make sure this period is unbroken in order to avoid productivity-zapping interruptions.

And go all the way with it. A successful alone-time period means letting go of communication addiction. During alone time, give up instant messages, phone calls, e-mail, and meetings. Just shut up and get to work. You'll be surprised how much more you get done.

Also, when you do collaborate, try to use passive communication tools, like e-mail, that don't require an instant reply, instead of interruptive ones, like phone calls and face-to-face meetings. That way people can respond when it's convenient for them, instead of being forced to drop everything right away.

Your day is under siege by interruptions. It's on you to fight back.