The #1 thing that disrupts my productivity is that ding, ding, dinging of notifications crying out from my electronic devices. The high pitch ding or low mumbling buzz from device’s vibrating notifications find their way into my subconscious and manifest into a nagging germ in my mind that temps me to drop everything, check my messages, and respond as if the world’s mortality depended upon the swiftness of my response.
Here’s my main issue with e-mails. They really are never-ending. Naturally the world wants to communicate and the ironic thing is that the more avenues we create to communicate with one another the more lost in translation you tend to find yourself in. Usually I’m pretty decent with maintaining some homeostasis with an inbox of zero. I’ll admit it’s not an easy routine to maintain, but it get a lot easier once it becomes a habit.
Make it Easy
For starters just make communication from the start easy. Personally I hate composing emails from my cell phone. The keyboard is much to small for real fluidity and I feel like I’m constantly straining my eyes trying to stay focused on the tiny screen. The solution? A good ole’ keyboard and monitor. Seriously if something isn’t broken don’t fix it.
However, we can modify it for modern day uses. I’m currently using a 2-in-1 Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi that the nice people over at Intel provided me. I’m currently loving it for handling my office work because of new Window 10 operating system and the detachable bluetooth keyboard. I can work more efficiently any day with a real keyboard that resonates with that satisfying clicky sound and being able to poke and touch the screen. As much as I love my old iPad Mini, I’m sorry iOS is bit annoying to write from. Right now I’m really enjoying working on a 2-in-1 device. It’s a good middle ground between a bulky laptop and tablet.
Dedicate a Place
Since we’re living and swimming in a world that’s filled with distractions one way to get situated to knock out those pesky emails is to find a dedicated location to just focus on emptying out that inbox. As a freelancer I’m finding it more and more difficult to work from home due to the welcoming distractions of things like Netflix, my fluffy white dog, or the warm comfort of my bed (don’t even think about tainting your bed by using it as a workplace!) The goal with finding a specific place to work from is to built good habits and rituals for you to mentally get situated in. For me that place is a local coffee shop with good coffee, outlets, and wifi. Recently I’ve been venturing into using more portable devices on the go.
My email ritual looks a bit like this. I trot in, order a drink with the cute latte art because it makes me smile, scan the lobby for a quiet open spot hopefully within proximity to an outlet, then flip over the tablet-laptop combo device start attacking the pesky emails.
Scheduling Time for Replies
Try this now: go into your phone and computer’s emails settings and turn off the notifications. I know, I know you’re going to feel a little anxious for the first 10 minutes. “What if I get something really, really important?!” Chill, my friend it can wait. Now go into your calendar or alarms and set up a reminder to check your emails at different times of the day convenient to you. For me I like reminding myself to go through emails after my morning run at 8:30am, after lunch at 1:00pm, and at the end of day before dinner at 6:00pm. By scheduling dedicated time to go through messages I’ll avoid compromising my focus with other eye-catching distracting things.
On top of that I’ll also avoid being that rude friend that’s always on their phone during meeting or social outing.
Hit the Snooze Button
A mobile trick I started using in the last year from my phone is to snooze certain emails, which will make them disappear from my inbox and then reappear at a more convenient time. My favorite apps so far are Inbox by Google or Mailbox.
Closing All Other Tabs and Windows
Sometimes dedicating a time and place to combat the inbox isn’t enough or isn’t the issue in the first place! Sometimes it’s our need to have a million tabs and applications open that distracts ourselves from the dreaded email task. Therefore go cold turkey and shut down everything until you finish the job –inbox zero!
Okay, sometimes we do need to have multiple tabs and windows open for reference or research purposes. In this case what I like to either use the Windows Snap Assist feature, which conveniently spits display in half and fills the halves from top to bottom with two application windows.
Or if I really need to want to focus I’ll create virtual desktops in Windows 10 and dedicate each one to a specific task.
Out of pure curiosity I wanted to see how many virtual desktops would Window 10 support. I got to over 100 below I got tired of clicking “New Desktop.”
Speaking of Windows 10, hello Start Bar! It’s been so long, great to see you again 🙂
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