One setting that costs you 1.5 hours of focus each work day

Steal back 50–98 minutes of deep work today

Sam Duncan
2 min readMar 16, 2023

We are drowning in digital distractions. The modern workplace is destroying our focus.

And perhaps the most pernicious perpetrator is email:

“Email is a wonderful tool that has revolutionized communication, but its ease and ubiquity have come at a cost to our ability to work deeply.” — Cal Newport

Outlook is the ultimate knowledge worker interrupter

The problem isn’t email itself, but the bombardment of notifications.

If you’re an outlook user, you get heaps of emails.

But you also get meeting notifications — sometimes 2 for each meeting (one before and one at the time).

There’s plenty of research showing this is incredibly harmful to our productivity.

So here’s the first step to fighting back.

A quick hack to steal back 50–98 minutes of focus time per day

Turn off Outlook notifications. Here’s the math:

  • You’re getting 100+ emails daily (some studies suggest it’s more like 140+)
  • Let’s assume only 10% of these notifications are distractions (realistically, it’s closer to 25%)
  • It takes about 23 minutes to fully regain focus after being interrupted (Mark, Gudith, & Klocke, 2008 — this study has 833 citations)
  • But let’s say you’re a superhero and only need 5 minutes to dive back into deep focus

I’m being cautious with the estimates here.

But the results are still so scary.

Outlook notifications alone might be costing you 50 minutes per day.

Almost an hour wasted by meaningless digital interruptions.

Terrifying, right?

“The hyperactive hive mind workflow enabled by constant email communication is keeping us in a state of fragmented attention, which undermines our ability to think deeply and work on tasks that require sustained focus.” — Cal Newport, Deep Work

The other (worse) costs

But it gets worse:

A 2005 found that people who were frequently interrupted by email notifications take about 20% longer to complete tasks than those who were not interrupted.

Let’s be super conservative and assume you’ll only need 10% longer to complete your work while distracted by email:

  • Assuming an 8-hour workday (480 minutes)
  • A 10% improvement in task completion time would save 48 minutes per day

“Interruptions from email don’t just steal our time; they also steal our cognitive resources, making it harder to regain focus and think deeply.” — Cal Newport

That brings you to a total of 98 minutes saved per day.

That’s 1.63 hours per day.

More than 20% of your work day.

What could you achieve with another 1.5 hours of deep focus time in your day?

It’s time to switch off the email notifications.

Free your focus.