by Geoff Cox

Software Craftsman. Guitarist. Folk Hero.

In 2015, I’d had it with the insane volume of communication I receive at work. I completely changed how I interact with messaging tools and every work day got better.

Message overload

I’ve got 20+ automated systems spamming my inbox with low-value messages. I’m forced to be on distribution lists that send me all kinds of stuff I don’t care about. My calendar system defaults assume I’m always free for yet another meeting.

Worse are the incessant notifications flashing up on my screen. New email! IM! New email! New meeting invite! IM! They derail my train of thought constantly. The context switch back to code is demoralizingly expensive.

My home life is under attack too. Notifications on my smart phone want to keep my brain at work. I’ve heard HR folks refer to it as work/life integration rather than work/life balance. Probably a great culture for the company, but it’s not so great for me.

Research shows strong correlations between full inboxes and stress, interruption and productivity loss, interruption and lack of memory retention, and personal life problems with being always-connected to work. If you’ve experienced messaging overload you don’t need research to be convinced there are negative consequences.

What doesn’t work

I’m a software developer. I’d rather spend my the majority of my day thinking about and writing code. Toward that end, I’ve tried many of the popular book techniques to better manage my inbox, schedule, and instant message sessions. Sadly, all of them failed.

Most organization schemes fail because they:

Communication Zen

Here’s what I did to make messaging work for me.

I am disconnected by default

I only have 2 inbox rules

I am busy by default

I found better ways to stay connected


I had one case where I missed an early morning meeting that was scheduled the previous evening. When the meeting organizer asked why I didn’t attend, I told him I didn’t see the invite because I don’t read email after work. He stunned me by replying, “I guess I’ll have to schedule meetings more in advance”.

Today, I am better rested and more focused at work. At home, I’m present for my family and myself. My nonsense email volume is down and I get more coding time.