You know those “Do Not Disturb” signs you can put outside your hotel room? You might want to get one for your desk: Interruptions in the office can make you feel exhausted all the time, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Stress Management

For the study, researchers surveyed 252 people about how often they were interrupted during a typical workday, as well as what their overall stress levels were during the month prior to the study. They found that the more people were interrupted—whether it was because of a person stopping by, an e-mail notification, or a phone ringing—the more mentally drained and physically exhausted they reported feeling. 

Why? This particular study didn’t look into the mechanism, but researchers hypothesize that intrusions can cause the body to overproduce cortisol (a stress hormone), which can leave you feeling more tired. “You shouldn’t just worry about the time that’s lost during an intrusion,” says lead study author Bing Lin, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of psychology at Portland State University. “Our study shows that they can have detrimental psychological costs on people, as well.” 

Of course, they’re called interruptions for a reason: They’re unpredictable and difficult to control. But taking preventive measures to minimize disturbances is possible. Just take these small steps to slash your mental and physical exhaustion ASAP: 

Customize Your Notifications It’s pretty much impossible to not check your e-mail when you hear that “ding.” Luckily, most e-mail servers let people change the system preferences so that you only receive alerts when certain people contact you (like your supervisor), says Laura Stack, author of What to Do When There’s Too Much to Do. The same goes for putting your phone on silent (not vibrate). By switching your computer’s and smartphone’s settings, you’ll be able to deal with high-priority messages now and worry about the not-so-important ones later. 

“Schedule” Interruptions Remember how in college your professor held office hours? It’s a smart strategy to follow suit and set aside a specific time for people to swing by to talk to you, says Stack. This way they’ll be less tempted to stop in when you’re in the middle of something and aren’t expecting them. Also, check in with co-workers to see if they need help with anything before you dive into a big project, says Stack. A quick “I’m going to be buried in these expense reports for the next two hours—so feel free to give me a call in the next 15 minutes if you need something before then!” should send the message that you don’t want to be interrupted after that window. 

Wear Headphones When your office neighbors get a little rowdy, sometimes the only thing you can do is drown out the noise. “You can’t help but listen to someone’s conversation in an open office space,” says Stack. While plugging in headphones won’t stop someone from tapping you on the shoulder, it might make them think twice before speaking to you—and at the very least, it’ll help protect you from the noise of six people chatting about Sunday’s football game. Can’t work while you listen to music? Sound-canceling or –minimizing headphones can also do the trick—even if they aren’t playing anything.

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