Updated: Jun 29, 2021
I was hesitant.
Can I do it?
This one checkbox seemed to be dangerous.
I was behaving like it was a button to launch a nuclear bomb.
What will be the impact?
What will I miss?
Won’t people be angry that I take long replying?
All these stupid thoughts almost prevented me to do the right thing.
Then I unchecked the Outlook notifications button.
And clicked OK.
No more notifications in the right bottom corner of my screen, which lure me into reading an unimportant email while I try to focus.
No more envelope icon in my taskbar that pulls me into topics that don’t matter.
No more sounds that trigger my mind like a Pavlov-dog.
If needed, I could always set notifications for emails sent by certain people.
Though I was afraid for the impact, nothing happened.
No nuclear bombs.
With this simple action I increased my productivity significantly.
Innocent interruptions: damaging distractions
According to the Pareto principle, 80% of the results come from 20% of the work.
That 20% is the type of work that requires full concentration.
Completely focused, in a state of flow.
According to research, every time you get distracted from your highly productive state of flow, on average it will take you 23 minutes to get back to your task. That means this one simple email that flies by can lead to a major disruption of your working day.
Are you interested in reading more about the concept of "flow"?
Then pick up the book by the writer with a last name I won’t try to pronounce – even if you put a gun against my head: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.
Craving for dopamine
Brain scans have shown dopamine releases at the moment we receive an email, get a like on Instagram or a new chat message on Skype.
I can feel it too.
The temptation to open my inbox is enormous.
The pull to answer emails.
While this gives me a feeling of being productive, it is all an illusion.
When zooming out of the corporate Outlook jungle, I wonder: what did I actually create?
All I’m doing is just shoving information around.
I think my relationship with Outlook will be a life-long wrestling match.
It will keep pushing and pulling me away from activities that actually matter.
The temptation will be there.
But I will purposely try to stay away from my inbox.
Not receiving any notifications gives me just a little bit of extra strength that helps me to keep Outlook under control.
Staying on my legs, focused on tasks that make the difference in the long run.
And, when it’s most important to concentrate,
I do a Hulk Hogan trick.
Throwing Outlook on the ground.