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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

A Small But Helpful Gmail Trick in the War Against Distraction

One of Gmail’s defining features is how it routes emails into up to five sub-inboxes: Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. Helpful? Oh yes. Occasionally distracting? Definitely—especially since more and more professionals are now using Gmail not just for personal email but also for work.

If you’re anything like me, when you see those colorful numbers show up indicating that you have new mail in a sub-inbox, you can’t help yourself from going over to see what it is. What if it’s important, my inbox whispers, and I’m tempted to stop what I’m doing and check.

Unfortunately, 90% of the time, I’ve found that I interrupted my flow for nothing, since the email wasn’t important. Well, I’ve recently discovered a trick that lets me scratch that itch without succumbing to distraction: Simply hover over the colorful numbers in other tabs to see who it’s from.

Now, I can handle important emails in sub-inboxes when they come through, but when I see that the email is from Twitter or my bank, I can continue going about my workday without switching contexts and multitasking without reason.

Procrastination and distraction: 0; Alex: 1.

Photo courtesy of Esteban.