Email Communication

Notifications Steal Attention and Impact Communications

Notification Overload

Text messages, emails, apps, social media, and Microsoft Teams … and don’t get me started on the Notification Center on my Mac. With all of the notifications that ping and ding us all day long, how do we ever get anything done?

Of course, I want to be available and responsive to my clients and colleagues — but then again, I do value my privacy and my personal space.  

I’ve found a sense of balance by wrangling my notifications and using certain settings to stop them from interrupting me when they don’t need to. This allows me to stay focused when I need to, and also spend down time with my friends and family without interruption. 

So, here is my methodology — in case it helps anyone else find the right balance. 

Separate Calendar and Mail Apps

I use Apple products for personal use, and Microsoft products for business use. This creates a natural separation between my work and personal notifications. It’s a bit cumbersome at times because my work and personal calendars are not commingled, but I’m working on a solution for that as we speak.

Since I use Microsoft Office for all of my business communications, I fire up Outlook, Teams, and a bunch of other apps that come with my Microsoft 365 subscription when I’m ready to work. On my computer, I’ve set these apps only to notify me when they are open, and not in the background. This way I only see notifications when I want to (including the ubiquitous red notification badge on the Outlook app). If I need to focus on a particular task without interruption, I simply quit the apps and I get uninterrupted time to concentrate. I also quit the apps when I’m engaged in a conversation on Zoom or on the phone. The only notifications that are allowed to come through when the Outlook app is closed are my calendar reminders.

During the day, I don’t open the Apple Mail program and Calendar apps (which are where my personal communications live) unless I’m taking a break from work. This way they are not intruding on my dedicated work time. And yes, you guessed it, I’ve turned off notifications on those apps as well, so I only see new messages or events when I fire up the specific apps. 

I also don’t use Messages on my Mac (which is an app that delivers text messages to the computer at the same time they land on your other devices). It’s enough that my phone and iPad get notified when I receive a text. I don’t need those on my computer too (even though it is convenient at times). The sacrifice of convenience for less distraction is worth it to me.

I’ve even gone as far as using two different task apps for personal and business reminders. Microsoft To Do for work, and Apple Reminders for home. Works great. 

Taming My Phone

On my phone, again an Apple device, I stick to similar rules. The Microsoft Outlook and Teams apps are where all of my business communications are housed. The personal stuff stays within the native Apple apps like Mail and Calendar. Outlook notifications for upcoming meetings are turned on since I rely on that feature to keep me on schedule, but incoming email notifications are off. I have to physically tap the Outlook icon to get new mail. The same is true for the Apple Mail app. I don’t need to know the precise moment that an email shows up.

This stops me from being tempted to check email constantly during the evening hours, and especially during dinner. I only check when, and if, I’ve decided it’s time to sit down and look.

Bottom Line

As much as I talk to people about being present during both professional and family moments, I’ll admit how hard it is to ignore your phone when it dings or buzzes. 

The name of the game for me has been to ensure that the apps I use for work and for personal communications are not notifying me when I’m spending time on one or the other. So far, it’s working great. 

If you’ve got other tips for preventing notifications from stealing your attention, I want to hear them. Please share in the comments. 

Tips for Being Heard at Work

Be Heard

When we feel we aren’t being heard, a common reaction is to talk louder. Or interrupt. And if you’re an introvert, you might lean the other way and keep your comments to yourself instead of trying to share them with those who need to hear them. 

Your voice counts. Considering how your brain operates in certain situations as well as how the specific people you communicate with listen and process information will help you be heard, and more importantly, understood. 

Here are some tips:

  1. Let kindness lead the way. You can never go wrong by being kind, and doing so diffuses tension and helps others avoid feeling defensive. Even in the most difficult conversations, when you show the other person that you care, you make your communications more tailored to their needs—and more effective. 
  2. Read the room. If you have experience with the people in the room, you likely know how they operate. Some may just want the facts quickly while some may like to dive in deep and understand the background. Whenever possible, try to tailor your communications to the needs of the people in the room and give them what they need to be able to connect with, and understand, you.
  3. Listen now and speak later. If you can’t formulate the right response on the fly, give yourself the time you need to process everything and craft a response that you can feel good about. You can always have a second conversation later when you’ve gathered your thoughts, or send a follow-up message with your response after the heat of the moment has passed.
  4. Don’t hide or procrastinate. It’s easy to hide behind emails or text communication because you can lob your thoughts over the fence to get it off your shoulders/mind/plate and plop it in their court. Consider when you need a call, videoconference, or meeting to discuss a topic, move something forward right away, or put an issue to bed. 
  5. A good visual can make all the difference. Some people need a visual aid to help them grasp a concept. Consider when a topic might benefit from something people can see to help them connect the dots. This can be something you prepare beforehand, or a quick sketch you create on a whiteboard to help people grasp the idea.
  6. Sometimes you just can’t beat a blowhard. There are people who need to hear themselves talk and refuse to listen. Don’t try to win. Instead, figure out how you can slowly persuade them over the longer term. Share your perspective but don’t expect to convince them to agree with you today.
  7. Let others be heard. Listening is probably the most powerful tool you have in your communications toolbox. Everyone wants to feel that their voice matters. 

And don’t forget, most people never get thanked for the good work they do—and it means a lot when they do. Thank people for contributing and validate when you hear something that contributes to the conversation.

What else should we add to this list?

Photo by Headway on Unsplash
Too Many Emails from Brands

You Could Have Kept Me if you Gave Me a Choice

There are many companies that I like to hear from through email. I like a good deal, and want to know about upcoming sales. I also like to stay in the loop on new technology, and trends in the world of branding, marketing, and communications. However, most brands don’t let me control the amount of content they send to me.

That’s a shame, because I often want to stay in touch. But I get too much email at home and at work, and I’m tired of weeding through the marketing emails in order to get to the messages that truly need my attention. Retail brands are especially aggressive in this regard — does anyone really want a daily marketing email from a company they just bought something from?

So, unless you give me the opportunity to limit the amount of email you send me, I’ll unsubscribe. The brands that give me the option to reduce the frequency of communications as part of the unsubscribe process usually keep me as a subscriber. Those that don’t lose me forever.

If you’re a marketer, consider the power of choice and give it to your subscribers. You’ll keep more of them engaged over the long term.

Am I Screaming?

Am I screaming? Or does all caps work here?

So here we are, my first post on a blog that I’ve been thinking about starting for two years. This blog is going to be about effective communication—at least that’s the idea. The plan is to share short thoughts and tips about how we can all be better in our professional and personal lives by taking the time to communicate clearly and kindly. And, I want to hear from you along the way. What tips and advice or experiences can you share? Be sure to let me know.

Honestly, I’m fine with whatever this blog morphs into, as long as it continues to mean something to me while connecting with others who I can help. You see, I’m an educator at heart. There is nothing I enjoy more than helping people be the best selves they can be. I plan to post thoughts about my experiences and observations on this blog in the hopes that the things I share will help you, and those you communicate with, be more clear, more efficient, and more effective.

I do believe that there is a fundamental problem in today’s business world—we’re all moving too fast and the lines of communication are becoming more and more fragmented. We have so many tools at our disposal to make communication more efficient yet we seem to be less efficient and less human. Let’s change that together. I don’t think it’s impossible, but I do think we need to be better at being more patient and considerate of our wonderful and necessary differences. Differences that include how we listen, how we empathize, how we use words, how we see the future, and how we react to each other.

Something as simple as how we type an email or a quick text message can make a difference. Much of our communication is done through a keyboard; and while I do love words (they are so very, very powerful), words can be construed in so many different ways. Without face-to-face interaction, there is so much potential for misunderstanding in every piece of communication.

Lesson number one in my training as a communications professional was all about the receiver. What are you trying to say, and how do you make sure those who are meant to receive your message understand it? A short, four-word email can come off as curt or angry to some and as remarkably efficient to others. The wrong emoji can seriously confuse someone on the other end of your text message. Considering the nature of your message, the person receiving it, and the different ways the message can be construed is step one. Often, it only takes a few more seconds of thought and consideration to make a message clearer, and more tailored to the receiver to ensure what you mean to say comes through.

Try it.

Take just one moment more with each text or email you send today. One quick moment each time. Reread your words and think about the human on the other side of each communication. I’ll bet you will find that it makes a difference.


Mini Focus Group: This site is new. I really like (visually) the blog headlines in all capital letters, mainly because that matches my logo nicely. However, all caps online has long conveyed yelling. Are my headlines screaming at you? Let me know by taking this one-question survey.

Photo by Jason Rosewell on Unsplash.
Scroll to Top