When thinking about “on the job distractions,” I reflect back to a couple of companies I worked with where email was heavily relied upon to communicate with other co-workers and especially the boss. There’s nothing quite so stressful as having numerous conversations taking place within email and having to make the decision to ignore it for awhile to get back to the “real work” at hand. I’m not suggesting that email isn’t “real work.” However, if it isn’t making the company money and I have more demanding project deadlines at hand, my email can wait.
In my personal opinion, there are simply some positions that do not require you to focus on emails or make them a priority as part of your daily routine. Yes, checking email is important. Do it during a break, in between projects, first thing in the morning and 1/2 hour before leaving for the day. Structure the time you spend on email to suit your needs and time, and the rest of the work will get done. If it’s something so important that demands an immediate answer, a co-worker or boss can call you or step into your office to deal with the issue at hand and you can do the same.
The expectation that all your communications in the workplace take place via email is an unrealistic one of yourself and of your employer. Take control, set your boundaries and structure the time you spend on email, and don’t hesitate to let them know. Put an auto-responder in place that lets people know you’ve received their email, when you will reply and how to reach you if it’s an urgent matter needing immediate direction.
If you have a position where email is in whole or part of your work, then this might not apply to you. I’m writing mainly to those with positions where a company’s income is not reliant on whether an email is answered immediately, and have the ability to structure it into a daily routine as opposed to allowing it to become so overwhelming that prioritized projects suffer delays, more time is spent on email and less on day to day projects, and stress sets in.
If you are ADHD, there’s an excellent article on how to “Diminish Digital Distractions to Maintain Attention.”