How I Work: The power of no(tification)

If you have a difficult time saying no, you are not alone. It is a word we focus on applying to certain aspects of our lives, such as our personal and business relationships, and neglect to apply to our technological ones.

Many years ago I did something that surprised my colleagues and was a bit controversial to those that signed my paycheck.

I shut off notice of new email: on my desktop, on my blackberry, and on my smart phone and tablet. That has since expanded to notification of various social media apps on desktop, phone, and tablet alike.


There is always something new asking for my response and attention.

When I said no and turned off the new email alerts my productivity soared. I was no longer trying to split my attention between the new and the existing and was able to make progress on large projects that had been languishing. While few joined me in saying no to the alerts, it was no longer an issue with management.

Today I still follow this practice; don’t worry I still check in with my email frequently. While I am working, my email application generally stays open in another monitor, and I do turn to it often … no less than hourly, but it’s often every 15 minutes.

By sticking to my schedule and minimizing the distraction of additional alerts, I can focus on the task at hand with my full attention. I’m therefore also able to give email my full attention when I check in with that task. It’s part of how I’ve been able to achieve inbox zero each Friday, but more on that in a future post.

If I am traveling then I do sometimes turn on notifications, but in general, this is how I work.
I’m not alone:
From Lifehacker: You Should Forget About Push Notifications for Your Email and Perfectly Prune Your Notifications to Stop Your Phone from Constantly Bugging You.
James Clear agrees too: Never Check Email Before Noon (And Other Thoughts on Doing Your Best Work) and is also quite helpful in helping you learn How to Say No.

2015-01-29 10.18.11

I’ll discuss more about why I try not to multi-task and my inbox zero philosophy in future posts. Do you have a question about how I work? Please ask!