Check your email (and other notifications) at set times (or days) and rarely. Limit yourself with a browser plug-in, or set up a commitment contract to break the habit. Try the email game. Train others to not expect an immediate response, or to knock, text, or call for anything urgent. Above all, work with your email closed, disable alerts, and remove any ensnaring icons or links from your desktop or phone.

Email is somebody else’s agenda for your time. Haphazard fielding is unproductive and unhealthy. The email at the top of your inbox is probably not the most important, and email itself is almost certainly not the best thing you could be doing. Meanwhile, alerts tickle your curiosity and exploit our evolutionary weakness for novelty, distracting you from the work at hand. The ensuing indulgence disrupts your focus, causing you to lose up to 20 minutes as your brain reboots [Gallagher, p. 154], and the dopamine hit from new information reinforces your compulsion. Worse still, throughout this, your breathing probably grows shallower and your brain gets less oxygen… [Stone, Johnson]

If in doubt, consider the behavior of some of the internet’s more sophisticated users.



Mark Changizi. 2011-08-20. Masters of Distraction. WSJ

Winifred Gallagher. 2009. Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life. Penguin

Seth Godin. 2012-01-12. The first thing you do when you sit down at your computer

Adrianne Jeffries. 2011-11-30. French Tech Company Declares ‘Zero Email’ Policy. BetaBeat

Linda Stone. 2009-11-30. Diagnosis: Email Apnea

Clay Johnson. 2012. The Information Diet. O’Reilly


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