Productivity: An email-free time zone.

I am a morning person. I do my best thinking, writing, creating, running, and whatnot between 4:30 and 9:00 a.m. But the minute I check my email, I might as well throw my hands up in the air, because I’ve let the outside world in and I end up giving away my most productive hours.

Sometimes I wonder if the best way to increase productivity is to establish some policies. “I’m sorry, it’s my policy to avoid phone solicitations. Please contact me by mail.” You have to admit, it’s difficult to argue with policy.

If you need to create an email-free time zone, here are a few policies and solutions to try:

  • Establish a policy to check email at certain times of the day, and then promote it in an auto reply message. “Various duties around the bookstore prevent me from having 24-hour access to email. Therefore, I make it a policy to check email at 11:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and will get back to you at those times. Thanks for your understanding.”
  • Use the Google “pause” button. If you receive your email through Google’s gmail, you can place a “pause” on incoming mail. To do so, download a Chrome app from, and a blue “pause” button will be available for you to pause or unpause according to your workflow. If you have your inbox paused, you can still send and reply to email already in your inbox… you’re just not letting any more in until you’re ready for it..
  • Turn off your notifications. If you use Outlook and receive ‘new mail’ notifications on your desktop, it can really derail your concentration. Here’s how to turn off the notifications if you use Outlook for either Windows or Mac:

Outlook for Windows:

From the Tools menu, click ‘Options’

On the Preferences tab, click ‘E-mail Options’, and then click ‘Advanced E-mail Options’

Under ‘When new items arrive in my Inbox’, uncheck the ‘Display a New Mail Desktop Alert’ check box

Outlook for Mac:

From the Outlook menu, click ‘Preferences’

Select ‘Notifications & Sounds’

Under ‘Message arrival’, uncheck ‘Display an alert on my desktop’ and ‘Bounce Outlook icon in Dock’

Under ‘Sounds’, uncheck ‘New message’

Now it’s up to you when (or if) you allow the world back in.

Beth Golay

Beth is a reader, writer, marketer and Books & Whatnot founder. Even though she knows better, she's a sucker for a good book cover and will positively swoon if a book is set in appropriate type. @BethGolay