To avoid wasting time emailing back and forth to schedule meetings, use a shared calendar — like YouCanBookMe, Calendly or x.ia — where colleagues can see your availability and book slots accordingly. If you frequently set up meetings with people outside your organization, those tools can be integrated with Google and Outlook calendars, so you don’t have to switch between different platforms.
Another timesaver: Rather than type up the same response to common questions or requests, save a template so you can quickly fire it off when needed. That, Dr. O’Keefe said, tells recipients, “I see you, I hear you, I’m interested in responding to you — but here’s when it will happen.”
Finally, you will never become an inbox zero person if you treat your email like a to-do list. It’s common to leave messages unread and use them as reminders to get to certain tasks. The thinking goes: “If I need to do it, it’s in my inbox. And if I want to take something off my plate, I’ll just send an email about it to someone else,” Dr. Newport said. “That is a task management system. It’s just a terrible one.”
Instead, he suggests creating a separate “space of obligations.” Use online tools like Trello, Flow-e or Asana to create task boards that organize your responsibilities according to urgency and progress. If those aren’t for you, Gmail has a task feature embedded in the calendar app that lets you create digital to-do lists, while Outlook has a similar feature called To Do. (Its classic task tool is being phased out.) Or, simply use a pen and paper to outline your day’s priorities.
“The key thing here is low friction,” Dr. Newport said. “Get things written down out of your head.”
Remember, you’re in charge.
There are small lifestyle changes you can make to tune out when needed. Dr. O’Keefe recommends taking time to examine each of your digital tools and ask, “How does this fit in my life?”
If you don’t absolutely have to be on call 24/7, snooze professional email and chat notifications once you sign off for the day. If you have a smart watch that syncs to your inbox and phone, take it off after you’re done working.
Smartphones are so versatile — we use them to work, connect and even buy cars — but remember that you’re in control of how you use them. Dr. Literat decided to stop reading and watching shows on her phone, so she bought a Kindle and started turning on the television more.