Chris Alexander

On Engineering

The Secret To Getting Stuff Done

16th July, 2009

Or: Why I don’t have a mail client installed on my work machine

E-mail may be all well and good; it’s fantastic for instantly communicating across the world, keeping in touch with friends, managing business, and so on. But there’s nothing quite as distracting as that little sound your mail client makes when you have a new e-mail waiting for demanding your attention.

So, when I started my work placement a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t even bother setting up a mail client on my work machine. In fact, I don’t think I did because I was too busy diving into a huge pile of code to bother with that kind of thing.

This is in stark contrast to what I have at home - invariably there is at least one mail client open (even if only one makes a sound when I get new mail), and I’m always ready to jump on any incoming e-mail. Sounds strange, but responding quickly to many e-mails is rapidly becoming a way of differentiating in this very competitive job market, as well as conveying a good impression to the person who has taken the time to contact you.

So why the big change at work? Well first of all I don’t want to be half way through a particularly complicated method just to be distracted by something else demanding my attention (whether I want to give it attention or not): it would take another 5 minutes to get back into the code whether I chose to open the mail or not. I think my employer would also feel a bit short-changed if I spent even a few minutes of my time every hour responding to personal or not-work-related e-mails (all the little bits add up to quite a lot!).

Basically, this is a long and winding excuse for why you shouldn’t hate me if I don’t respond instantly to an e-mail during the working day. Chances are, I’ll deal with it as soon as I get in, and it’s not because I’m just too lazy.