Email Productivity Experiment – Update 3

This is the fourth post in my mini series about email productivity. For those of you who missed the first three I have provided links to them below.

Email Productivity Experiment
Email Productivity Experiment – Update 1
Email Productivity Experiment – Update 2

After the last installment of this series, I had changed my email collection timer from the default 5 minutes to one hour. I had seen quite an increase in productivity as I was working on emails in batch rather than what seemed to be every five minutes.

I decided that the next step was to check my email four times during the working day. These times were to be at 0900, 1200, 1500, and 1700.

There is no automated way to do this within, the default mail client on the Mac and the one that I use so I had to turn off the automatic mail collection setting and set this to manual. So, from now, I received email when I manually clicked on the Get Mail button within

For the first few days this was going great. I informed the people directly involved with me that I was only checking email at these times and if something was urgent, then they needed to tell me in another way.

It generally worked out very well. Just like with the one hour gaps, the time between email on a three hour gap soon came around and I was amazed at how fast time was going in between email. It was nice and actually felt quite liberating to be free of the feeling that you have to check email.

All this was very well and good until I stumbled across a little item that resulted in me working very closely with the BBC and other journalists for just over a week on what became quite a well covered news story, even making the front page of Digg!

Because of this, I found most of my good work go straight out of the window as I had to check my mail frequently as I had to answer time sensitive questions. So, I found myself checking mail very frequently to ensure that I had not missed anything from any of the people I was working on the story with.

This has identified to me that strict email systems like these have to give sometimes, unless that is I can find a way around this. Some way of being able to filter the mail before I get it to my mailbox so that if I am working on something like this in the future I will be able to selectively receive mail. I could use a second address but that is not really an elegant solution so off I go looking for a way to achieve this.

Just out of interest, the story I did was posted here on the BBC website and was covered on many other technology and security news sites. The hits to our company website at RandomStorm sure did increase as you can imagine!

The report went live on Monday and it has been a very busy week. I am back to checking email once an hour and aim to go back to the four times in a working day from next Monday.

This has been a great lesson to me about flexibility in systems and the fact that sometimes the system has to give. It was in my interests for it to give as it was a priority for me to ensure I gave a speedy response to questions asked.

I am looking forward now to improving this.

7 thoughts on “Email Productivity Experiment – Update 3

  1. Eli

    Just a thought. I haven’t had to check my e-mail frequently or infrequently due to productivity reasons. However your problem has intrigued me. Could you set your e-mail to check ever 5 min and have it alert you when only specific people e-mail you? That way you can still schedule an “e-mail break” on your schedule, but still reply timely to those people that are on a special list. I don’t know much about, but it is fairly easy within Outlook. You can also have them moved to a certain folder under your inbox so you don’t even see the other e-mails unless you specifically change folders.

  2. Jared Goralnick

    First of all, I think there’s nothing wrong with some flexibility in specific circumstances. You can even use IM or phone for those things. But if you want to rely on technology…

    I agree with Eli’s solution. You could create a filter that either alerts you with a sound/popup or forwards certain messages to another account. It could be based on subject, content, sender etc. That’s the only really good way to use your own rules for urgency.

    Since I’ve been using AwayFind (disclosure: my product), the sender gets to identify things as urgent. When there’s something important I get a text message on my cellphone or someone else at my office gets the (abbreviated) message routed to them (depending on the category).

    Best of luck!

  3. Andrew Mason Post author


    Just looked into the preferences and I can play a sound at the end of a rule. So I could perform a rule where I moved items and then only sounded a notification when the mail arrived from an individual or group.

    All real good thinking points and I thank you for your contribution.

    Thanks, and have a great day.


  4. Andrew Mason Post author


    Thanks Jared. I was not going to mention Awayfind until you did 🙂

    I will get to trying the beta out and will obviously review it as well. It sounds like the secret sauce for what I am looking for, and I hope it is!


  5. Jared Goralnick

    Thanks, Andrew, you’re too kind! I’m never really good at being patient. I see a problem and just want to throw in ideas! ;-).

    Now I’ve got to find some time for those Zig videos… Have a great day!

  6. Pingback: Email Productivity Experiment - Update 4 | Getting Things Done GTD with Personal Development and Motivation for Success

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