This is part of my Tech Workers' Guide To Distraction Free Work

I used to leave my email (e.g., Outlook, Apple Mail) open on my computer all the time. Every time a new message arrived, I’d hear a pleasant ding. Then I’d be tempted to drop everything and see what awaited in my inbox.

The root problem is that I crave novelty, and new emails are more exciting than my day-to-day work. Consequently, leaving my email open is a huge distraction.

Nowadays, I close my email and only open it at 9 am and 2 pm. At those times, I read and respond to messages and then close my email.

I even scheduled a “Check Email” recurring appointment for 9 am and 2 pm on my calendar, so I don’t worry about forgetting to check it.

Some people recommend adding a line to their email signature to let others know that they’re not constantly checking their email. For example,

I’m trying to be more productive and only check my email at 9 am and 2 pm, Mon. - Fri. Thank you for your patience.

Take action: Keep your email closed except for specific times. Schedule time to check your email.

Tech Workers' Guide To Distraction Free Work

Common Problems

  1. How Do I Stop Endlessly Researching Topics And Get Stuff Done?


  1. We Want To Be Distracted
  2. Proximity Matters

Practices: Just Say No

  1. Just say No
  2. Stop Looking For Drama
  3. Beware Of Taking On Extra Responsibility
  4. Make an “I won’t do” list

Practices: Say Yes

  1. Track your distractions
  2. Stay focused with a To Do list
  3. Make a “Big Rock” list
  4. Follow the 2-minute rule
  5. Try the Pomodoro Technique
  6. Make a list of questions

Practices: Control Your Physical Environment

  1. Find your Den of Productivity
  2. Eliminate distracting belongings
  3. Limit disruptive noise
  4. Listen to music
  5. Silence your phone

Practices: Control Your Digital Environment

  1. Close your email
  2. Leave social media
  3. Close your browser tabs
  4. Limit distractions from Slack
  5. Try an app blocker

Practices: Get Organized

  1. Make project documents

What do books say about distraction free work?

“You could try to pound your head against the wall and think of original ideas — or you can cheat by reading them in books.”
Patrick Collison

  1. “The Obstacle Is the Way” on handling distractions
  2. “The 4-Hour Workweek” on eliminating distractions