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GMail is my office mail. A lot of my work has pieces where I need some information from email or replying to email. I go into gmail to search for something or send a reply to an email and then end up wasting time reading not so important email. I feel that this wastes my time and leaves me with unfocused time skipping from one task to another.

Things I've tried in the past and given up on: * Shutting down GMail and opening it up only at specific times. The problem I faced with this is that quite a bit of my work involves info from gmail and so I end up opening it again in about 5 minutes. * Get my inbox to zero: I have a fairly high volume of email, so it tends to go to non-zero fairly quickly. And when it is non-zero and I have come into gmail for something else (reply/information) I tend to read and respond to email by habit.

I've already seen this: How do I deal with distractions when working on a computer? but I'm looking for answers to a more specific situation.

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

A dirty, but very quick hack I've used in the past is to have a bookmark that takes you not to but to a search for an unusual string - for example the link shows me an empty box (because the string finds nothing in my inbox and I can search away.

I also use Stylish( is the firefox addon, there is a chome one, which I demonstrate below) which has a 'minimal gmail' style, helps to get rid of everything.

The combination of the two means that when I want to - I can open up gmail like this:

enter image description here

and that stops me being distracted my emails (disclaimer - I've not used this trick in a while, simple because I got to a point where the incoming emails being processed effectively enough - but it worked fine for me a while ago)

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Gmail provides you a feature to create email filters based on email-address or subject. Filter the not-so important mails and make them skip the inbox. They will collect into the folders. Check this folder once in a day. This way the inbox, will be filled only with important mails and the other not so important ones won't distract you, as they are out of your sight.

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It sounds like you're using your email to store project supporting data. And that leads you to go into your email and get distracted.

This suggestion won't help when you need to respond to email, but you can reduce the need to enter your email by putting supporting data elsewhere. I find Evernote ( to be very helpful for this. An email message can be forwarded directly to an Evernote notebook with whatever tagging you use. When you need data, you then retrieve it from Evernote, using any one or more of a desktop, iOS, Android, or browser app. Evernote also makes notes searchable.

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  • Turn off notifications: You don't need to know the second you get a new email. For gmail this means not having your gmail open in your browser all the time so you won't see the X new emails sign. Also if you use the desktop app to give you an outlook style popup by the clock when you get new email - quit it!
  • Check email only every X hours: X should be the largest that you can get away with. No way you need to check your email less than every hour and you might be able to get away with only checking it every 4 hours.
  • Don't check email first thing in the morning: Efficiency is built through routine. Get something productive done before you get distracted by email.
  • Create a personal email account: Remove all subscriptions to mailing lists and stop using your work email for personal reasons. Then make a rule that you never check your personal email during work hours. You can check it during lunch, or when you're at home, but that's it
  • Create automatic filters: Gmail, like outlook, has powerful filtering rules that let you categorise email automatically. Anything where you're only CC'ed in rather than listed in the 'To' list can wait or even just be deleted. Email from certain people can be downgraded to a lower priority. This means that if you get super important email that you actually have to check regularly, you can categorise this into a small list and only read those emails. You don't look in the other folders other than every X hours
  • Use instapaper: If you get something interesting that you want to read, email it to Instapaper and delete the email. It'll help you get your inbox down to zero and you can read the instapaper articles on your smartphone when you're away from the desk.
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A little out of the box thinking, but I've stopped trying to keep myself from distraction, it's going to happen regardless. However, I did install "Take a Break" to Chrome.

Rather than worry about getting distracted, I worry more about taking a BREAK from staring at the screen. Getting up and walking to the water cooler...less than a minute away from my me a new level of focus. Personally, I've found that to be more effective a technique against distraction. Perhaps staring at the same screen for hours on end LEADS to a need to be distracted.

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I recently threw together a Chrome extension called Inbox When Ready which addresses this exact problem.

The extension hides your Gmail inbox by default. All other views remain accessible as normal so you can search your archive or compose messages without getting distracted.

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