Turning Off E-mail Alerts: Outlook 2007, Hold the Toast

July 17, 2008 at 2:29 pm | Posted in Attention Management, interruption science | 8 Comments

I struck a blow against interruptions today by finally getting around to turning off e-mail alerts (also called “toasts”) in my Outlook e-mail client.  In my presentations on Enterprise Attention Management I describe how people will take action only when the cost of action (figuring out the software or getting new software) exceeds the cost of inaction (the annoyance factor).  Well, with e-mail alerts it finally hit that point for me. The number of times it distracted me has been far greater than the number of times it served its purpose by interrupting me to let me know something important had arrived.  So I decided it was time to hold the toasts.

Here’s how you do it in Outlook 2007:

Outlook2007 Hold The Toast

I won’t detail instructions for other e-mail systems, but for those that have alerting, most of them have a way to turn it off.  For web-based e-mail it’s often in your IM client.  For example, with gmail the app itself it web-based, but if you use the Google Talk client it also pops up alerts by default.  You can turn those off by going to Settings, Notifications, and clicking off the checkbox for “Show notification” under “New email”.

Now if a co-worker’s e-mail sends me off on a wild goose chase it will still disrupt my day, but at least it won’t interrupt my train of thought since it will wait patiently until I check my e-mail before annoying me.  E-mail will always be a distraction, but it doesn’t have to be an interruption. 



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  1. […] is that an interruption? It’s a “distraction” like having a TV in your office. Turn off alerts if they annoy you).  Second, the time eaten up by interruptions is touted but not the time […]

  2. […] is that an interruption? It’s a “distraction” like having a TV in your office. Turn off alerts if they annoy you).  Second, the time eaten up by interruptions is touted but not the time […]

  3. An update: It’s been about 8 months since I turned off toasts (e-mail popups) and I don’t miss them at all. Sometimes I now run off for an hour at a time focused on one workstream and feel quite productive. I forgot what that felt like when toasts kept distracting me. I have not encountered a situation yet where I got burned by not getting to my e-mail quicker.

  4. […] the messaging inbox is the most classic information worker distraction, but it can be dealt with by turning off toasts (for wired workers) or mobile […]

  5. […] In the presentations I’ve given on this topic, I devote a slide to this question and make the point that people will act when the cost of action exceeds the price of inaction. That may take a while, but if people are indeed annoyed enough they’ll figure out how to do something.  And here’s my post on how to turn off the new email window in Outlook. […]

  6. Thanks for the tip. Not sure why this is buried so deep in the options hierarchy.

    There’s an article in today’s NY Times about the fallacy of multitasking:



  7. […] when a new email arrives) and how distracting they are. After describing how to turn them off (see here) I used this as an opportunity to demonstrate the difference between personal attention management […]

  8. please stop sent me this job alert . it is not helping . please stop stop

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