How to Finally Stop Being Distracted by Email All Day

How to Finally Stop Being Distracted by Email All Day
Photo: NicoElNino, Shutterstock

You probably get more emails per day than ever before — nuggets of important information buried among an ever-increasing pile of junk. There are newsletters you don’t remember signing up for and store promotions you definitely didn’t sign up for mixed in with calendar invitations and a pressing question from a client. The result is an inbox that is perpetually distracting, to say the least.

How to stop email distractions

Given how common this is, you would think we’d have come up with an effective way to mitigate the distracting nature of our inboxes. But because we also need at least some of what lies within, taking a multi-layered approach is the most effective — and realistic — way to keep our email from sucking up too much of our attention.

Mute those notifications, once and for all

The first step is the most straightforward. If you haven’t muted your email notifications, and you are subjecting yourself to endless buzzing or dinging, it’s time to make a change. Switch your phone to its “do not disturb” mode or disable the notifications for your email app.

If you get email notifications on your computer, silence those, too. The easiest way to do this is from your inbox’s settings. Open whatever email service you use, go to settings, and find the option to turn notifications off.

Check your inbox at the same time each day

Of course, you have to check your emails at some point so you don’t miss anything important. And now that your notifications are off, you may be tempted to check that inbox every, oh, five or 10 minutes, just to see what has arrived in the fresh silence. But the key here is to train yourself to dive into your inbox at the same time every day.

Decide on two set times — once in the morning and once in the afternoon — that will be dedicated inbox time. Spread those times apart by at least a few hours, and don’t choose times that overlap with other regular daily tasks. You may also want to inform your colleagues about this schedule, so they know when they’ll hear back from you or how to contact you if they need a quicker response on something.

Use your email time more efficiently

You can further minimise email distractions by using your scheduled inbox times more efficiently. Try to only spend, at most, three minutes replying to any given email, and limit them to three sentences or less. This will help you get better at replying more quickly and succinctly.

You can also sort your emails by sender to find the most urgent ones first, like those from your boss, a new client, or your partners on a current project. You can also skim email subject lines to get an idea of what deserves your attention first. When you start with the most important emails first, you can afford to put off any others if you run out of time.

Log out when you’re done

Did you know that you don’t actually have to stay perpetually logged into your email? It’s true! When you’re done checking your inbox, log out of the program completely. At first, this may seem like an unnecessary step — even a burden — but it helps to have a definitive end to your inbox time and to lower the temptation of popping back in again and again.

When it takes an extra step to get back in, suddenly the temptation to do so isn’t quite as strong.

  

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