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3 Tips to Keep Your Email Inbox Under Control and Minimize Distractions at Work

productivityAt The Starr Conspiracy, we are big believers in practices that increase productivity — things like allowing our teammates to achieve a flow of uninterrupted and focused work during the day, keeping distractions to a minimum, and collaboration when it counts.

Recently, The University of California, Irvine, found that the typical office worker gets 11 minutes between each interruption in the office, but that we need an average of 25 minutes to return to the original task after a distraction.

Add to that’s Marsha Egan’s estimation that the average worker receives 100 to 200 emails per day, meaning even if you only spent one minute addressing email email, you would spend 2-3 hours every day on email alone.

While there are dozens of shiny, sometimes expensive productivity apps and tools we can use to manage our inboxes and our digital distractions, the majority of the work of minimizing our interruptions everyday can be done through managing ourselves.

If you have the ability to influence culture within your organization in a meaningful way, there are a lot of steps you and your team can take to promote an environment that values focus time, but here are three tips you can use to manage distractions throughout your own day if you’re looking for a place to start:

  • Check in in a meaningful way. Checking your inbox at lunch or on the run isn’t doing you or your team any favors. In fact, you’re probably getting stressed checking emails when you can’t properly respond or give your full attention to the task at hand. Beyond that, if you’re checking in dozens and dozens of times per day (almost constantly), you aren’t giving yourself the opportunity to deal with your email in bulk or batches — if you can manage, create three or four meaningful check in points throughout the day where you can devote your attention to your email and stop letting it passively interrupt your productivity throughout the day.

  • Manage your notifications. Do desktop or popup notifications really help you stay in the loop throughout the day or are they, more often than not, distractions of company-wide chain emails, calendar invitations, and other notifications you don’t need to address right this second. If you are going to be entering a time of focus during the day, shut off your notifications to your phone, desktop, and close email in your browser to manage your own day with a little more control.

  • Be clear about your needs if you need uninterrupted focus time. It’s not really fair to get frustrated with your team, family, or friends for interruptions if you haven’t been clear about needing uninterrupted focus time. Block off time on your calendar as “focus time,” lock yourself in a phone booth or behind a closed door, or wear headphones and make sure people know that you need a certain amount of time to complete the tasks on your list for the day.

What other productivity hacks do you find useful for getting focus time throughout the day? Leave us a comment or tweet us at @StarrConspiracy with your tips.