Tips for minimal disruption in Google Workspace

Image: Andy Wolber/TechRepublic

People who work together in a physical office space have access to social cues that communicate a desire not to be interrupted. A closed door or, in an open office, wearing headphones or earplugs indicates an obstacle to informal conversation and a preference for privacy.

The following four Google Workspace tips and tactics extend those signals to the world of remote work and allow you to express your intent to work uninterrupted. The steps outlined below describe how to complete any task from Google Chrome on a computer. You can also perform any of these tasks on a mobile device that has the appropriate mobile app installed, although specific steps will vary.

SEE: Google Workspace vs. Microsoft 365: A Parallel Analysis with Checklist (TechRepublic Premium)

How to create focus time in Google Calendar

Add focus time to your calendar to prioritize in-person focus time over another scheduled meeting. When adding your Focus Time event, I recommend enabling the option to automatically decline meetings. When this option is selected, anyone who sends you a calendar invitation that conflicts with your focus time will receive an instant and automatic invitation decline notification.

Often I suggest that people discuss and reach an agreement on how many hours per day, week or month to devote to focus time. Different roles may warrant different expectations. For example, one hour of concentration time per day may be sufficient in some roles. In other circumstances, it may make sense to block entire days for focused, uninterrupted work on a project. Discuss and document the appropriate use of this feature for each person in your organization.

To create a new focus time event, open Google Calendar on the web and select the +Create button in the top left of the page, then select focus time (Figure A).

Figure A

Create a focus time event in Google Calendar to make time for an uninterrupted work session.
Create a focus time event in Google Calendar to make time for an uninterrupted work session.

Configure the focus time event options as desired, then select Save to add the event to your calendar.

How to set the status to Do Not Disturb in Google Chat.

Set your Google chat status to Do Not Disturb to signal colleagues to postpone messaging until a later time. When Do Not Disturb is active in Google Chat, the system will mute message notifications. You will continue to receive every message, but no notifications will be sent. This option can be useful when you want to give a client or colleague full attention, either in person or in an online Google Meet session.

To set your Google Chat status to Do Not Disturb, open either Google Chat or Gmail on the web and click (or tap) the chat status indicator in the upper-right corner of the page. This option can be set to Active by default. Select Do Not Disturb to silence notifications (Figure B).

Figure B

Set your Google chat status to Do Not Disturb for any duration.
Set your Google chat status to Do Not Disturb for any duration.

Next, select the duration of the mute: 30 minutes, 1 hour, 2 hours, 4 hours, 8 hours, 24 hours, or until a specified time. The last option allows you to select a specific date and time in the future to resume Google Chat notifications.

While most organizations have clear expectations for email response time, I encourage your organization to set standards for chat responses in a similar way. Typically, expected chat response times could be people within a shorter period of time, e.g. B. 24 hours, would reply to a message; However, expected response times may be as little as one hour in certain circumstances and roles.

How to schedule sending in Gmail

One challenge with email can be that when you send an email, you get a response. The other challenge with email is that the time you can reply – e.g. Late in the day, or even on a traditional day off, might not be the time when you actually want people to act on your email.

The Scheduled Send feature in Gmail saves your email for delivery at a later time; This allows you to manage exactly when your message is emailed. Scheduled sending not only allows you to only send emails during a person’s normal working hours, but also only when you may be in the best position to respond to your email react.

To use the scheduled send feature in Gmail, open Gmail on the web. Select the Compose button to compose a new email and enter your recipients, subject and message as usual. Then select the triangle to the right of the email Send button and choose Schedule Send (Figure C).

Figure C

Select the triangle to the right of the email's Send button, then select Schedule Send and choose a future date and time to send your email.
Select the triangle to the right of the email’s Send button, then select Schedule Send and choose a future date and time to send your email.

Either choose one of the times offered or select a time to select a date and time from the calendar. Until the specified date and time, your emails remain in the Scheduled category in the same list as your Inbox, Starred, Deferred, Important, and Sent messages.

You can view, edit and adjust both the content of your email and the scheduled send date and time at any time before your email is sent. At the selected time – you do not have to be online – the system will send your scheduled email.

How to edit documents, spreadsheets or presentations offline

While collaboration remains one of the best and most useful features of Google Workspace, sometimes it makes sense to work offline. Working without the possibility of a collaborator accidentally accessing a document gives you the freedom to write, structure a spreadsheet, or enhance your presentation without stopping. When you edit offline in Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides, the changes you make sync when you’re connected to the internet.

To enable offline access for Google Drive, open Google Drive on the web and select Settings at the top right of the page. Then check the box next to Offline (Figure D).

Figure D

Access the settings in Google Drive to enable offline file access.
Access the settings in Google Drive to enable offline file access.

By default, the system prepares recently edited items for offline use. However, you can also manually select a specific file for offline access.

To enable offline access for a specific item on Google Drive, open Google Drive on the web and click on a specific file to select it. Then go to the “More” menu (the Kebab menu) and adjust the slider next to “Available Offline” as indicated by the circled item Figure E. It may take a moment for the system to sync item data with your local system.

Figure E

Select a file, access the More menu (three vertical dots) and adjust the slider to make an item available offline.
Select a file, access the More menu (three vertical dots) and adjust the slider to make an item available offline.

Once synced, a file available for offline use will show a circled check mark after the file name, as indicated by the arrow in Figure E.

What’s your experience?

What other tactics do you use to minimize disruption and maximize your chances of a focused work session? If your work situation supports it, how many hours per day, week, or month do you typically set aside for focus time? How often do you intentionally work offline in Google Docs, Sheets, or Slides? Mention or message me on Twitter (@awolber) to let me know how you use Google Workspace to get work done.

Leave a Comment