Doohickey to deter people from interrupting me at work.
November 26, 2009 7:37 AM   Subscribe

I would like your suggestions for something I could place on my desk or computer which would clearly and visibly indicate to me and others my work status. The status I wish to illustrate is either a) Working on project X or b) not working on project X.

I work in a small company and have been charged with project X. On a regular basis I am asked by co-workers and managers to help them out on things other than project X. I am being judged by my performance on project X and would like to strictly limit my time on anything other than project X. In an effort to track whether or not I am on project X and to deter myself and others from taking me off project X I would like something to place on my desk which I can set according to whether or not I am working on what I should be working on.

Ideas I have are a little flag and flag pole which could be up when on X and down when off X, or an Action Man who could be lying down dead when off X or shooting his gun when on x, or some sort of On Air / Off Air lights like they have in a radio studio.

It can be fun but should be safe for work visible from 15 paces or so and leave people in no doubt that I am busy and they had better think twice about interrupting me. I used to have a 'Do not disturb' sign for my door but have since move to an open plan office.

Read some good suggestions about workmate interruptions in this previous question but would like this 'thing' which you will hopefully suggest.
posted by therubettes to Work & Money (14 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
How about a remote control scrolling LED sign?
posted by arniec at 7:48 AM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

A bowl of sweets when they are welcome to come in, and no bowl when they're not? Seems friendly.
posted by ersatzkat at 7:53 AM on November 26, 2009

Put headphones on. Or wear bright orange earplugs. People will get the message eventually.
posted by NekulturnY at 7:53 AM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

A big red lightbulb for when you're not to be disturbed?
posted by HFSH at 8:00 AM on November 26, 2009

I like the little flag pole idea - cute & clear, especially in an open-plan office area (I'd be sure to announce - either in a meeting or via email - what the purpose of the flag is). If Project X has a logo associated with it, so much the better.
posted by pammeke at 8:01 AM on November 26, 2009

The Jolly Roger has an X, and might fend people off when hoisted.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 8:02 AM on November 26, 2009 [1 favorite]

One of these would be fairly clear.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 8:02 AM on November 26, 2009

A better idea: designate a particular period of time of the day, say 2:30 to 5:00 pm, as "free time", during which you can work on things other than X. Work only on X until then. When someone wants to discuss something earlier in the day, tell them that you will talk with them at 2:30 (or some other specified time after 2:30). Get yourself a little sign that says "Open for freeform time" and put it up at 2:30.
posted by megatherium at 8:43 AM on November 26, 2009

Don't use ambiguous symbols, people can be dense when they think they really need something. And it doesn't matter what project you're working on -- if you can't be disturbed, you can't be disturbed, period. Just put your "Do not disturb" sign (or as many as required) somewhere on your desk when you need it. As a last resort, scowling can work incredibly well for keeping co-workers at bay.
posted by sageleaf at 9:03 AM on November 26, 2009

Some people at my old office had these long plastic signs with velcro on each end that stuck to their fuzzy cubicle walls. One side said "Do Not Disturb", and when they didn't want to be disturbed, they ran them across the door of their cubicle, so they created both a verbal and a physic barrier to someone entering. Of course, if something was really important, it was no real barrier to communication -- people could just speak over it -- but generally it was respected.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:23 AM on November 26, 2009 [2 favorites]

Anything that isn't obvious will foster questions and thus be self-defeating. I'd suggest your bog-standard sign.
posted by chairface at 9:50 AM on November 26, 2009

Thanks guys, think I will get a usb powered do not disturb neon sign, for the record headphones have not worked and I really need to create a 'stay away' vibe like a poisonous frog which I hope the sign will do!
posted by therubettes at 1:02 PM on November 26, 2009

At they use a Fuck-Off Flag: if your flag is up, it means you're busy and not to be interrupted.

I'd combine your LED sign with a set time for other projects as suggested above, and a set line for when people decide to interrupt you anyway. Something like "oh I'd love to help you but I'm in the middle of Project X right now. why don't you email me and I'll get back to you when the flag is down, probably about 2:30?".
posted by harriet vane at 12:51 AM on November 30, 2009

Steve Hoffer uses what he calls an Improvised Status Board: a muji notebook that stands upright and displays a hand-written status messages, like 'Do not disturb' or `Please disturb'. This can communicate a greater range of statuses than a fixed-message illuminated sign.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 10:31 AM on December 13, 2009

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