I'm having a time management issue. To complete my technical work, I find it helpful to close my email tab. This gives me quiet time to get work done without feeling compelled to look at my inbox and deal with interrupts.

Unfortunately my job role has changed such that I have to reference information sent to me in email. I used to be driven entirely by a ticketing system. For example getting server IPs or reviewing updated requirements sent as an email. This means I have to have my email open and searchable to find information.

How can I manage this conflict?

Is there a general strategy?

Are there specific tools, plugins, software or settings that might help?

I am open to both technical and psychological solutions.

  • 1
    Yes. For example, I am working on a task that requires some information a user sent me yesterday. I've got that message open and moving along with my task. As I'm looking at the users email I got 2 new messages, the inbox counter changed, and I have a hard time not clicking to see what the new messages are.
    – Freiheit
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 21:35
  • 2
    Save out the information into a file or forward it to a 2nd email account.
    – mkennedy
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 21:47
  • 4
    @ChrisLively Simply an issue? If self control was easy we would never procrastinate, never eat too much, never sleep in too late, never avoid a difficult conversation etc...
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 14, 2015 at 22:29
  • 5
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is about personal productivity.
    – Jim G.
    Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 0:09
  • 3
    Email is a key tool in many workplaces. I don't see how a question about focusing on work and avoiding the distractions of incoming email is off-topic. Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 16:27

3 Answers 3


Start getting into a Zero Inbox habit.

  1. Things that need to be saved for future reference go into a folder other than the inbox.
  2. Shut off any auto notifications.
  3. Open the reference folder during down times and not the inbox.

I think a better habit is getting those emails messages out of your email system completely and into Evernote or some other information management system. They usually have better search tools.


Use an email client, such as Outlook. Set it to send/receive only when you request it. Now you can open the app to look at emails, without getting new ones.

Alternatively, stop using your email as a place to find things. When you get requirements, IP addresses, etc, paste them into a document that you keep on your machine and can read at will.

  • If you use Microsoft Outlook you can send an email to a OneNote document (or Evernote) with a single click from the Outlook toolbar. Commented Jan 15, 2015 at 3:49

I would say copy content away from your email or open messages as new tabs away from the inbox.

I would recommend against stopping new emails coming in or notifying you automatically. Because that's when you start polling for them. This is known as operant conditioning with intermittent reinforcement, which will turn the send and receive button into a compulsion. If you do want to turn off emails do it for short periods and don't poll.

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