What I Did
I followed the advice I have been hearing over the last year, and changed the way I deal with email at work. I used to have Outlook pop open as soon as I went into my machine, and I would leave it open for the rest of the day. I would check it whenever the Outlook icon would catch my eye. Granted, I had turned off notification and I had also set it so that it only showed in my tray, but I was checking email probably every half hour or so. Last week I set up my machine so that Outlook doesn’t run immediately, but instead opens up automatically through AlfaClock . It runs at 9, 11, 1 and 3.
Effects on Responsiveness
My first worry is that this might have an effect on my responsiveness to customer issues. Checking email for the first time would not allow me to see errors that might need attention when I come in at 8:30. However, what I found is that having that half hour without email allows me to ground myself and figure out what the most important task is for the day. Also, should a true emergency happen, my coworkers will inform me of it when I walk in and I have the choice to check email at that point.
So the effect on responsiveness has been nil.
Effects on Productivity
The next part of this was to figure out how much checking email interrupted my productivity. I’ve had a week of heads-down coding, and I haven’t felt distracted by what might be going on. As a result, I have actually been more productive without having to shift between tasks frequently.
What Else I May Try It On
This experiment has been successful enough that I might try it with other interrupters. IM may be next, and my cell phone.