Ah, email. The fundamental backbone of our work.
Oh, it isn’t?
Then why do we allow our productivity to flag whenever Outlook is down? Why do we have such a hard time communicating in its absence? And why do we allow its sudden arrival to dictate the schedule of our day?
In learning about how to calm anxiety, I’ve realized that a major source of anxiety for me is the sudden interruption. Not a student coming by to ask a question, or a task that quickly materializes. I’m talking about the ding. You know the sound I mean. The Outlook ding. [Author’s Note: I tried to find a clip of it, but with no luck. Sorry!] The sound that I have seen reduce people to a positively Pavlovian response (I’ve seen this happen, and it’s both funny and absolutely mystifying) of stopping their present, possibly urgent task, to see what has landed in their inbox. The prevailing mentality is: If it dings, I have to respond NOW.
What happens if you don’t?
I have cut the tether, people. And I’m in love with how it feels. Does it mean I don’t email? No. But I will say that the urgency of it has gone down drastically. My Outlook doesn’t ding when I have a message, nor does it flash a preview of the message or who it’s from. I get email to my phone, but I don’t have push notifications. And if I have something to tell a student that isn’t an emergency at that moment, I save drafts and send it when they’re most likely to check. I know how I work, and I know that the interruptions that come with those sudden interruptions can be crippling to my productivity.
Does your office have a culture of a near-immediate response time to emails? If not, cherish it. If so, are you willing to ask why?
If you have the luxury of doing so, I urge you to try to eliminate the sounds. Enjoy the silence. Monitor your productivity in its absence. And decide if you’re willing to pull out your scissors and cut the tethers on your own.