Email is important, but not urgent (most of the time).
Email contains important work. But usually, it’s other people’s important work. If you respond to every bit of information coming your way, you’ll never work on your own list. The result is that you’ll be stressed, overwhelmed and overworked.
Don’t work from your email inbox all day
If you work from your inbox, you probably are busy but not contributing to creating a larger impact. For that reason, spending the entire day in your email inbox is a big no-no. The only exception is if you work in customer support or sales. If you don’t know what to work on, set goals and create a list of projects to work on.
Solve this by having fixed times to check email
Set up 3 times a day to check your email, e.g.:
- After lunch
- End of day
If you have a meeting at the time of the email slot, just move it or skip a slot. If you check email twice a day, that’s still good enough.
Pro tip: Don’t open email before 10 AM
If you work the first 60-90 minutes of the day without any interruptions from email, you can accomplish a lot.
Turn off desktop email notifications
Avoid getting distracted by incoming emails in real-time
Seeing an email from your boss coming in, it’s appealing to have a quick look. The truth is, that it’s better to finish what you’re working on and then read the email.
However, if you’ve seen it come in, you still think about it.
Turn off email desktop notifications to prevent getting distracted
Every notification you receive is a distraction. That holds true for email as well. Although it’s work related, you still get distracted from it.
Stick to the time slots you’ve planned to read email and work on more meaningful work in the meantime.
Turn off ‘Unread message icon' icon in Gmail
Avoid being distracted by the ‘number of unread messages icon’
If you are anything like me, you get distracted by the little red dot with a number inside the browser tab of Gmail.
Go to Advanced settings to turn off the unread message icon.
Hide your inbox and keep using the Gmail search
Avoid responding to emails outside of ‘email time’ when finding an email
When you work proactively on important work, sometimes you need information from an email like a file, a phone number or an attachment.
What could happen is that you feel the urge to start responding to that one email. Before you know it, you’ve replied to all of your emails and didn’t work on that important task.
Block your inbox view and still use the search functionality
My inbox looks like this with Inbox when Ready:
To hide my inbox, I use the chrome extension Inbox when Ready. You can still open Gmail and use the search functionality to find the information you need. But all ‘new emails’ are hidden by a screen. If you don’t see the new emails, you can’t get distracted by them.
Note: when you use the free version, a link will be added to all the emails you send out. Trust me: the paid version is worth it!
Master your focus
Minimise distractions from your devices, get control by keeping your focus and feel on top of work, instead of being distracted and feeling overwhelmed.