You knew it, and usability expert Jakob Nielsen confirms it: we’re drowning in irrelevant information, squandering an hour or more each day simply dealing with email and other distractions. So if you haven’t picked a new year’s resolution yet, here’s one:
Set priorities and allocate most of your time to tasks that are crucial to meeting your goals. (Surprise! Updating your Facebook profile probably isn’t one of them.)
Nielsen’s tips include ignoring email, except for a small amount of time each day — say, once per hour — that you specifically set aside for this activity:
“The majority of the workday should be allocated to big blocks of uninterrupted time where any outside influence is banned and you focus on your own priority tasks, one at a time…People who have the discipline to work this way accomplish immensely more than interrupt-driven slaves of real-time updates.”
Some of you will know by how promptly I usually reply to email that, ahem, this is an instance of “do as Nielsen says, not as I do.” However, when I’m working to a deadline, I’m all about uninterrupted focus.
To subscribe to Nielsen’s Alertbox, send a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
It depends on what your goals for work are. If you have assignments, projects or must produce something, it helps to concentrate on the task. But if your focus is networking, marketing, making contacts, getting meetings etc., then you pay attention to the Inbox. I do a lot of hard work by email, even interviewing people, so paying attention to email is crucial, not frivolous to me.
Gloria, you’re right. The goals you mention are all worthy. I was thinking more of the time spent “just answering a couple of emails” that could wait until later — AFTER a project is done!