Today in a meeting with my colleagues I brought up the topic of turning off email notifications throughout the day to focus on projects. This is something I have been adopting more frequently.
Rod Kurtz of Business Week argues that you should limit yourself to five email checks per day. “Check your inbox only five times daily–first thing in the morning, mid-morning, after lunch, mid-afternoon, and end of day. Or even less if you are capable. This works when you turn off the automatic send/receive function, allowing you up to two hours to focus on your work, rather than to be continually interrupted. It works when you group the sorting of your e-mail, making you more productive and efficient in dealing with it.”
Taking back control
I have to say I agree with his statement. When I am in the middle of working on a project and I see emails come in, there is a part of me that is compelled to open up the email, see what it is, triage its importance, and try to respond with an, “I've got this, I will get back to you soon” response. Then it takes me 30 seconds (or more) to get back to what I was working on in the first place, figure out what spot I stopped on, and get back on track. This cycle takes away from my ability to control my attention, and sucks time and energy away from what’s right in front of me. It inevitably makes the project take much longer to complete, and creates serious room for errors.
If you’re wondering how to get a handle on your inbox, try taking these steps:
- Use the “Work Offline” feature in Outlook. It allows you to still work in Outlook but blocks incoming and outgoing emails. Once you turn it back to “Online” the emails will start coming back in and be sent out.
- Turn on “Do Not Disturb” on your Teams company chat
- Turn on “Do Not Disturb” on your iPhone or Apple watch by clicking the moon symbol when you swipe up on your screen.
There’s quite a difference between being busy and being productive. I try now to make sure I schedule my email time and productive time in such a way that I avoid confusing the two. If you approach your email with the correct attitude, I believe you can boost your productivity.
Don’t let your email control your attention and start taking back ownership of your time. Begin to recognize that feeling of urgency we all feel when we see an email come into our inbox and see it for what it is: distraction. Setting boundaries around how and when you check your inbox won’t just help you more effectively and efficiently tackle your work, but it will give you the peace of mind many of us so desperately need.
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Account Manager | Raffa Financial
Photo by Steve Byland