Turn off the e-mail

Everyone with a new Windows PC and a freshly updated copy of Outlook has noticed that neat little feature at the bottom right.  When you receive a new e-mail, it slowly fades into view, shows you the subject line, the sender, and gives you some options to open it up or delete it on the spot.

I’ve been experimenting with my productivity for a few months now with it both on and off, seeing which setting makes me more productive.  My advice: turn the fucker off.

The device functions kind of like a Blackberry, demanding your attention constantly.  One of the things you start to realize as a modern information worker is that time is precious, and blocks of time more so.  At any given moment in a busy office you could be interrupted by:

  • a colleague coming to your desk,
  • a phone call,
  • an e-mail, or
  • an inspiration that’s too good to not write down.

If you’re one of those people who concentrate so deeply the building could be on fire (like my wife) then #4 doesn’t happen to you that much anyway except when you’re between tasks.  But 1-3 is going to hit you constantly.

For the last several weeks I have been working with that cute notification turned off, and I’m definately more productive.  Since I’m a Getting Things Done afficianado, I’m still checking my e-mail every half hour or so, and disposing of e-mails within five minutes or scheduling them as items on my task list.  But I’m not longer interrupted in the middle of doing something by e-mails, which makes me more available to do project work and be less interrupted by the other two items.

Give it a try for a couple of weeks, I guarantee you’ll be more productive.  And e-mails aren’t that urgent anyway.  If it was that urgent, they’d call you on the phone.