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Making the rules

Normally when I want to focus on my writing, I shut down email and Twitter until I meet my time or word count goal. I tend to do this in stretches, reward myself with some social media, and then shut it off and write again.

The last few months though, I’ve been either moderating or teaching a class. While I’ve never claimed to be available 24/7, I don’t want a message to languish for hours if I can avoid it. But if I leave my email open that little red indicator number tempts me to check my Inbox.

How to cope? I made a few rules. No not the kind I need to follow. I mean for Mac Mail.

First, I turned off the number indicator and the sound notification (Mail, Preferences, General).

Mac Mail–and Outlook if you're on a PC–lets you decide how to handle your email (Mail, Preferences, Rules). One of the ways I use rules is to move messages into relevant folders so I can handle them separately from my Inbox.

I have one for the current PRO class, one for my Scrivener class, one for my Golden Heart finalists group, and so on. At a glance, the unread messages number for each folder tells me whether I have emails in any of them so I can choose to deal with the messages now, or later.

This keeps key messages from getting lost in my Inbox, and makes the Inbox easier to wade through.

Additionally, if the message is something I want to make sure I handle right away, I have additional action in the rule that makes the Mail icon bounce in the dock. That way, Mail only commands my attention for the messages that require it. The rest can wait until I'm on a break.

Rule created for my Scrivener class


How do you manage distractions when you're trying to write/work?

Tell your friends!


  1. Reply

    Awesome rules, Gwen. Don’t you find it ridiculous of us to first clamor for Internet 24/7 and then have to undo all the alerts and messages to mimic how it used to be when we only had dial up? I laugh at myself all the time.

    I dismantled the alert sound in Mail some time ago, but was unaware of the ability to also get rid of the Dock Unread Count. Or… maybe I just liked having that distraction left in my life. And, no surprise, I found the link to this post while trolling facebook. lol.

    • Reply

      Thanks, Sarah. You’re right, the lengths we go to to disconnect are pretty absurd. Look at the success of programs like MacFreedom. It’s all about our own willpower, and apparently we have none. 😉

  2. Reply

    It’s scary isn’t it? Sometimes I marvel at how pathetically addicted I am to this social media thing. What fascinates me is that at school, where everything is blocked except email, I can go all day without checking in or even wondering what’s going on, but if I’m home, I feel compelled to check in frequently. Sad case I am, Dr. Gwen.

    Thanks for the details on Mac Mail. I know my daughter uses it all the time, and she did set it up for me, but I tend to find it easier to go to all my various accounts. I’ll have to investigate more when I’m on vacation.

    • Reply

      I’m the same way, Mary. If I’m not at home I’m just busy and (usually) don’t worry about my email or Twitter too much. But, if the computer’s nearby, I fell compelled to check every so often. Weird.

      Have a great vacation!

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