Some of you have probably heard me talk about this before. Email is a scourge on all of us, most days. I see all kinds of email behavior, all the time - at clients, everywhere I go. And the one thing that surprises me the most, and this goes back to some comments I made in the last couple of years about continuous partial attention, is people being notified every time they get an email. Literally, they are drawn to the email regardless of how good or bad or important it is, because they don't know - they just go and look at the email as soon it comes in.

We recommend checking email three times a day, but an example of constantly being distracted by email [and if you are an manager or an executive, you already have enough distractions, because email is not urgent] is the idea of something called "toast". Toast is Microsoft's word for the little reminder that comes up, that comes up in Outlook that slides up, at least in some versions, it slides from the bottom right hand corner of your screen and then slides back down.

And the joke was for a while that it looked like toast popping up. But the real story is they call it toast because if you pay attention to it all the time, you will BE toast. If you are doing that, if you have notifications, if your computer buzzes, or rings, or beeps, or you get a message over all your other work saying "you have new email" you are being distracted...and distractions are the bane of executives. If you pay attention to the toast, you're toast. (Thanks to Kate Horstman for correcting my use of your vs. you're in that last line - H)

So stop it. You will be more effective.

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