Friday, March 12, 2010

A Small, Helpful Change

A couple of weeks ago I made a change in the way I handle my e-mail. Previously I had my e-mail program set to automatically check for and send messages every 10-15 minutes. While working on something at the computer, I would see that a message would come in and, more often than not, out of curiosity I would go read it. This often led to my focus shifting from the previous task to something new. Also, because I knew that messages could come in at any time, I often stopped to check even when I was not working at my computer but engaged in something else.

For various reasons I disabled the automatic send and receive feature in the program. Now if I want to send my messages or check for new ones, I have to consciously choose to do so. I didn't actually make this change primarily for this purpose, but I have found that it has helped me focus on my work better. No longer am I distracted by incoming messages, nor do I stop and check my inbox regularly to see if something new has arrived. I perform a send/receive two or three times a day, read through what comes in and decide how to handle the new messages. Sometimes a message will force me to change my focus and deal with something urgent, but more often than not after reading my messages I can return to whatever I was previously engaged in. My interaction with my e-mail has become more focused which has in turn helped me focus better on other tasks.

This seems like a very small and sensible change. Probably most people already work this way. Since I work at home and my personal and work e-mail is the same, I find it more difficult to separate work and personal life. This small step has helped me implement a better routine. I don't feel so distracted by the false urgency of my inbox. I am better able to choose where I want to focus my attention and manage my time more effectively. So I you write to me, don't expect an immediate response!

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