Email Overload: A Little Help From Microsoft

August 28, 2008 at 9:23 am | Posted in Attention Management, Information Work, interruption science | Leave a comment

In June, Google announced an “Email addict” feature that was kind of a gag response to people complaining about email overload.  When you press a “take a break” button, the screen turns gray and locked the user out of email until you clicked again.  I had posted my own suggestions of how an email tool could help with email overload at https://knowledgeforward.wordpress.com/2008/06/08/google-lands-crushing-blow-to-email-addiction-with-new-feature/.

I was just turned on to Email Prioritizer from Office Labs which seems like a nice (and real) response to Google’s gag approach with its “Email Addict” feature. It hits on one of the features I wrote about: mail arrival schedules. I’d also recommend that Microsoft add automated scheduling options (hourly, morning/noon/evening, etc) to the manual option provided. This would simulate the cycle of the postman coming to deliver the mail, and leave your brain free outside those times to concentrate.

One nit: the description of the tool on their website annoyingly equated “do not disturb” as allowing you to “work without interruptions”. Unless you have toasts turned on email doesn’t interrupt you. And if that bothers you, the feature is already there to turn them off. I’d say email is a distraction or a temptation, not an interruption. The reason I’m picky is that there is a lot of great research around “interruption science” (for example, see interruptions.net) that mostly can’t help or doesn’t apply to this situation.  One needs different approaches and has different goals and metrics when dealing with distractions versus interruptions.

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