Do you respond to e-mail as soon as you receive it? When e-mail first came on the scene one of the reasons it became so popular was because you could send a message when it was convenient for you and the recipient could read that message when it was convenient for them. Now when we receive a message we think we should respond to it immediately. I once sent an e-mail message to a colleague on a morning during Labor Day weekend because that happened to be a convenient time for me. I felt badly when I received an immediate response. I didn’t intend nor expect them to respond during the holiday, I just wanted them to have the e-mail when they returned to their desk the following week.

If you have Outlook running in the background, you will be alerted automatically when a message is received. The time it takes for you to glance away from your work, view the sender’s name and subject, and then decide whether or not to open it, is more than just a couple of seconds. Your focus has shifted and  it requires mental energy and time to shift your attention back to the original task. Studies have shown that multitasking actually reduces effectiveness and quality of work.
After concluding three years ago that he was becoming a slave to e-mail, a senior manager at IBM decided to start checking his messages only twice a day. He has a notation at the bottom of all of his responses stating “Join the slow email movement! Read your mail just twice each day. Recapture your life’s time and relearn to dream.”

In order to improve on-the-job productivity try taking one or more of following steps to control your e-mail distractions:

  • Set up separate e-mail accounts for business and personal e-mail. Only check business e-mail during work hours.
  • Turn off the New Mail Desktop Alert (the little message that fades in and out of the lower right corner of your desktop when new e-mail arrives). To turn off the alert, select ToolsOptions, and then click the E-mail Options button. Click the Advanced E-mail Options button and then uncheck Display a New Mail Desktop Alert. Set up a rule (ToolsRules and Alerts) in Outlook if you want to display the alert only when e-mail is received from specific e-mail addresses (like your Club President, for example).
  • Set aside time to check e-mail messages at specific times of the day rather than any time a new message arrives.
  • If you aren’t disciplined enough to set aside time to check e-mail messages, change your e-mail settings in Outlook to check the server for e-mail every 3 hours (180 minutes). To change this settings, select ToolsOptions, and then click the Mail Setup tab. Click the Send/Receivebutton and then change the time under Setting for group “All Accounts” to Schedule an automatic send/receive every 180 minutes.
  • You can also mute e-mail alerts on your BlackBerry or iPhone.

Take control of your e-mail before it takes control of you and don’t forget to “recapture your life’s time and relearn to dream.” – LC

Lisa Carroll
Lisa Carroll is Relationship Manager at Kopplin & Kuebler, LLC, The Most Trusted Names in Private Club Executive Placement( Owner of Carroll Quality Alliance, LLC, Promoting Quality of Business and Quality of Life through Technology and Communications Training (