Thursday, 18 August 2011

Quick fix - email pop-ups

Whenever I talk about time management, people's worst problem is email, which robs them of the ability to plan their own work and concentrate on completing it.  Sometimes this is unavoidable - a project manager will have to keep up with emails as they arrive in case one is time critical.  But often the messages are completely irrelevant, routine, or non-urgent, yet they will still have intruded upon the flow of thought.  Studies have shown that after such an interruption it is likely to take 5-10 minutes before the worker returns to the original task.

So how to fix it?  One answer is to make good use of filters and folders so that important messages can be spotted immediately.  But the single simplest change you can make is to notifications.  The defaults for Microsoft Outlook were devised at a time when email traffic was rare and messages were important, so a window pops up to say a new message has arrived; in such circumstances it takes an iron will to deliberately leave the message unread while you finish the sentence you were typing.  It doesn't have to be this way.  Under Outlook > Tools > Options > Email options > Advanced options, it is the work of a few seconds to change the notification to something less distracting, like an envelope on the task bar.

Making this one simple change will give you back the feeling that you can control the way you use your time to best advantage.

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