Check email when you want to, not when the machine tells you.
Email programs are magical distractors. You are sitting working on the most important thing in the world and an alert sounds and a message pops up right in the middle of the screen:
“YOU’VE GOT MAIL”
You click on the message and your email program opens up. Read the email, think about it and reply all with a quick response. You then notice there’s a couple more emails and you’d better check them as well. When you’ve finished replying to them, there’s been two responses to the email that triggered the alert in the first place and you’d better respond to those as well.
Ok, all done. Now back to the most important thing in the world. Elapsed time:
Anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes!
Were you wrong? Was the thing you were working on not the most important thing in the world? Did the people who sent you emails know more about your priorities than you do?
No. Let’s assume for the sake of this story that you are pretty smart person and have a fair handle on your own priorities. It was the email alert that changed your workflow, took you away from what was important, distracted you.
Email alerts were great when you received one or two emails a day. Email alerts are not great when you receive emails every hour.
So step 1:
TURN OFF ALL EMAIL ALERTS ON EVERY DEVICE
Yes, including your phone. Turn off all alerts, all notifications and sounds and pop ups and even the little envelope icons appearing in the task bar.
Every email app or program has an option to switch off alerts. If you don’t know how, type “turn off email alerts in <program or device>” into your search engine. Read the instructions and do it.
In fact, do that now. I’ll wait.
Ok, so now you’ve got a little bit of control. Next time you are working on anything, email will continue to flow into your inbox but you’ll still be working on what you want to be working on. You’ve got control and you’ve set your own priorities.
Step 1 is a pretty simple step. It’s good to have little wins.