Distracted by “You’ve Got Mail”?

Ever get into the loop of constantly checking distracting emails when your time should be focused on productivity? Do you feel like you have a tendency to develop ADHD when you are online or checking email? Well you are not alone, because a case study conducted by Loughborough University in the U.K. unveiled that 70% of arriving emails are reacted to within 6 seconds. It took an average employee 64 seconds to resume work focus after the email interruption. When you think of how many emails you receive in a given day, how much of a work deterrent is email for you?

Of course some of us prefer to have email notifications galore lighting up our computer screen, like the Las Vegas strip. Well, Mailbird can give you that too. However, this post is for those of you who prefer a quieter email application. Yes, Mailbird can also turn down the volume, so you can stay focused on work. Remember long long ago when AOL reigned the email world with the simple sound clip “You’ve Got Mail!”. It even inspired a sappy romantic film with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. When you heard that sound, it was exciting, like receiving a package in the mail that you could not wait to open. Now a days, the heavier our email usage becomes and the more we use email in our day to day activities, building relationships and taking things to action, that “You’ve Got Mail!” novelty died a little.

In developing Mailbird, we realized that there is no right or wrong, and that it is all about preference when it comes to email. We can argue endlessly about what is good and bad about email, but we can solve that by providing options for the many preferences out there. We encouraged our online community to help us find a nice notification for receiving new emails, and after some great suggestions we landed on a nice sound for Mailbird. We did not forget about those who who want the option to turn off email distractions. Which is why we’d love to share the method to the madness of eliminating email distractions, so you are a productivity machine!

Social networking sites are another culprit to internet distraction when working computers. Now, we have options to un-follow comments so we aren’t notified every single time someone responds to a discussion, because who cares about hearing everyone else and their mother wishing your friend happy birthday, or how great your cousin’s sunset beach photo is. What to do? Set time aside for work and time for checking your email/social networks, don’t let the two activities overlap each other. Resist, resist resist because we know how tempting it is to get lost in that crazy, exciting internet world.

Schedule your play time and your work time. When it is time to get down to business, after you’ve checked your email and enjoyed the online playground, turn it off, shut it down…get to work. A great tactic for productivity and time management to aid us in avoiding email distraction is the Pomodoro technique, something we use at the Contenga International startup incubator. The human mind can only stay on task for a certain amount of time before fatigue claims productivity, so grab a timer or use http://mytomatoes.com/ and do 25 minutes of solid, uninterrupted work, then break for 5 minutes; this is one Pomodoro, I’m in the midst of my 25 power productivity time- 10 minutes to go! After completing 4 Pomodoro’s, you then take a 15-30 minute break. I can finish checking email in 1-2 Pomodoro’s, then shut ‘her’ down.

Another great tool to turn off any distractions in your physical surroundings is to plug in some headphones. Music selection is super important here. Select something that does not make you feel like it’s time to karaoke, something with limited to no lyrics. Instead choose music that is soothing, with a steady beat, melodic, instrumental, even a little jazzy. Now, it is understood that some of you might rely on email for your work and cannot just close out of your email application. With the inevitability of email distraction, review and determine quickly if it needs urgent and immediate action. If your sister isn’t in labor or your online bank account didn’t just get hacked, ignore the emails. Commit a time frame to process emails after you complete your task.

Another alternative is to train your email contacts to understand when you are busy on another important task. If they are begging for your attention, in Mailbird you can send a *quick reply* letting them know you will get back to them shortly. This actually worked for me when I did not get a response in a couple of days from the recipient of my email. I sent a follow up to check in and make sure they received my note. After sending a follow up email, I got a quick response that informed me they would get back to me shortly. Now I feel at ease knowing they are aware that I am eagerly awaiting their response. I can respect their time and trust they will get back to me.

If you must keep your email on, then set it to only distract you with notifications of importance. In Mailbird you can mark your email conversations as *important*, and only act on emails marked as such. However, realize that almost half of what arrives in your inbox can be ignored or deleted. Don’t be an email hoarder, you’ll end up wasting more of your valuable time when trying to stay focused on work. Instead of reacting to email, be proactive and flex your organization muscle, so you no longer feel conditioned to react to your inbox like a Pavlov dog. Instead, take control of your productivity and have email work for you. We’ll have a great post to come on tools to improve email usability and control.  For now, avoid the scenario where email has you conditioned to react. Instead make email work for you and simplify your experience with Mailbird.

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  • Great post! Is it okay to pin it to Pinterest?

    • Andrea Loubier

      Go for it Kathleen!