Quick email response times are fine in some businesses or industries. For example, if I’m in customer service, response time is critical. If I’m a real estate agent, quick response time is near-mandatory.

But for most of us, our primary responsibilities each day are largely pre-defined at the start of the day. Responding to email mid-day becomes more of a distraction to those priorities than anything else.

One strategy I’ve started using with greater success is simply using the “offline” function in Outlook. Look to the bottom right-hand corner of your Outlook application, where it likely says “Online” if you’re currently connected to your network. Right-click on that word, and choose “Work Offline”.

This stops the real-time send & receive of emails, and enables you to manually control when emails come and go via the “Send/Receive” button at the top of your Outlook.

Now, instead of being distracted from your primary task each time an email comes in, you can control when those distractions occur. Better yet, you spend far less time each day responding to email, since you’re essentially bundling email reading time into fewer times during the day, and minimizing the distraction and transition periods that take up too much inefficient time in our daily lives.

This may take some getting used to, especially if you’ve become addicted to the endorphin rush of getting, reading and responding to new emails. But I think you’ll also find that getting better control of how and when you interact with email will make you far more efficient at the daily work that really matters.