Its been more than an year since I have turned off my outlook email notifications at work. This has saved at least an hour a day for me. I normally get 100-150 emails every day out of which I may look at 60 of them when they pop-up. Even if I don’t respond right away, the interruption will cause a loss of productivity of at least 1 minute. So, thats how I got to one hour a day. Technically, it could be more or less but its safe to assume that there is some time saved by turning off the email notifications.
If you are very particular to know the precise amount of time lost to an email interruption then its 64 seconds per email. To read more about a study done then google “email interruption Dr Thomas Jackson of Loughborough University, England”. So, folks there it is - 64 seconds. The number for you could be different. As for me, I am very creative and so an email popup sometimes creates so many mental links that I mentally land up in some place from which I have to forcefully extricate myself to focus on the task at hand. If you are still not ok with a rough number and you really really want to know EXACTLY what your personal time is for an email interruption then you can install RescueTime that tracks your time spent on email and other applications. If the loss of productivity is less than 30 seconds for you then pat yourself on the back and let me know how are able to get your focus back on the task at hand. If it is more then please post a thank you comment.
When I suggessted this tip to some of my friends and colleagues, they threw a lot of “what-if” scenarios at me. WHAT-IF its an e-mail from your boss, VP, CIO, CEO etc.,. WHAT-IF its a fire-drill. WHAT-IF there is a production outage (for those IT folks on production outage call-list). WHAT-IF this, WHAT-IF that. The bottom-line folks is that the attention that you pay to a junk email vs an urgent, super-critical email is exactly the same. So, until your email client or blackberry figures out which is an important email that it needs to buzz or popup then you are better off turning your email notifcations.
My blackberry does not buzz when I get an email nor my outlook pops a notification. I am at peace with this set-up as it has made me a little less stressed out, a little more productive, a little more attentive and most importantly happier than I was.