If any part of your day involves a desk, it’s very likely that e-mail is a big part of your life. Sending, receiving, replying. It can be hours a day. Literally hours. And it rarely ever stops. While answering e-mail feels good and productive, isn’t only a small part of what you NEED to get done today. While there are cries across the internet for it’s demise, it’s still here, and it’s still more effective than putting pen to paper. If you find yourself wanting more time in the day, then it’s time to take the first step, and turn down the distractions.
Turn off your e-mail notifications.
Disable that distracting little pop up that lets you know you have new mail. It’s noise, not helpful, and it’s costing you your most precious resource every single time it pops.Amber Simonsen
I know this works, because I did it 10 years ago when I first discovered that the is way to process e-mail and it changed how I view work and how I invest my time each day.
Here’s why it works:
Get More Stuff Done: If your alerts are off, you can focus. If you can focus, you can complete things. Even if you checked your e-mail once an hour, you’d still come out ahead from where you’re at today.
Spend Energy on Stuff that Matters: Our brains are incredibly good at solving problems. A little too good. When the pop up is seen, our brain responds. We stop what we are doing to read, to assess whether we should decide to stop what we are doing or continue on, and then we take action either returning to our task at hand, or pausing that task, and starting processing the new one. If you notice every e-mail ping that occurs, you are mentally taxing your brain 20-100+ times a day more than you need to and that doesn’t even include formulating responses yet! No wonder we’re tired and have no time.
Maximize Your Creativity: Alerts shift our attention and halt creativity. Whether we are creating a report, participating in a meeting, or tactfully crafting a response to an e-mail, that alert stops our brain’s work on that task. Don’t kid yourself into believing you are multi-tasking during a meeting by leaving your inbox up. You are switch tasking, rapidly switching between listening and whatever popped up in your inbox. It’s a huge waste of time for yourself and those counting on your participation in the meeting. If you feel your time is being wasted in a meeting, you’re not alone, and you can vote with your feet. More about this another time.
Regain Control: Few of us like being forced to do something, yet we let that e-mail alert be a jerk to us, pulling us away from work we were already doing. Would you allow this kind of behavior in other areas of your life? Imagine you and your spouse got the kids to bed and are now ready to enjoy some wine and a movie. Then your five year old pops her head in to ask for some water. Is this request more important than time with your spouse? No! Smart parents set expectations with their kids and lock the damn door. Either the kid figures out how to get their own water, or they wait until morning for some help. So lock YOUR door, and turn off the e-mail alert.
Removes Urgency from the Inbox: Don’t live in fear of missing something urgent. Create a culture within your sphere of influence where truly urgent requests are made via text, instant message, or *gasp* a phone call. This isn’t hard. It just requires a conversation. As a director, I get 5-10 texts per week from my team and executives that actually require immediate attention. Even if that number was 5 per day, I’d still benefit from ignoring my inbox for hours at a time and then batch process when I do check it.
Have you turned off your e-mail alerts? What’s stopping you? Try it for one month and let me know what you think!