3 Reasons the New Gmail Compose is Great for Time Management

Time Management EmailIf you are a Gmail user, you found that your inbox looked a little different last week. Gmail rolled out a new interface that changes the way you compose messages. Instead of using the whole screen to compose a message, a small “compose box” now pops up in the bottom right corner.

I (along with the rest of the world) enjoy complaining about even the most miniscule adjustments to popular free websites, so this monumental change to one of the most basic functions of Gmail sent me into a bit of a panic. However, after living with the new compose box for a few days, I realized it’s actually helpful to our time management. Here is why:

1. It encourages shorter messages

When you have the whole screen to write a message, you feel obligated to fill it. How many times have you received a lengthy email requiring you to wade through tons of extra information just to get to the purpose of the message? The new smaller compose box feels much more like a chat window, encouraging shorter, more to-the-point communications. This saves time for both the writer and the reader.

2. It’s easier to reference other mail while you write

When composing a new message, I frequently have to reference previous emails, which was not easy to do in the old format. You had to save your current message as a draft, close it, open up your inbox again, and then return to the draft. Now, you’re able to keep your new email open while browsing your inbox for older messages, which is so much easier.

3. You’re less likely to forget about half-written drafts

In the old Gmail, if you were interrupted while writing a message, you saved the incomplete message to your “drafts” folder to come back to it later…assuming you remembered to come back to it later! For me, placing a message in my drafts folder was a pretty good sign that it would be quickly forgotten about. With the new compose box, you can minimize your drafts and they stay at the bottom of your inbox as a reminder to come back and finish them.

…and one reason it’s not

On the whole, I like the new compose box and think it makes my email experience quicker and more streamlined. There is, however, one big time management detriment I’ve discovered: it’s more difficult to stay focused. When the compose box took up the whole screen, it was easier to stay focused on the task at hand. Now that I can see my inbox while I’m writing, it’s easier to be distracted by incoming messages. If you notice your focus start to shift, click the “pop out” arrow on the top right of the compose box. This makes the window bigger and you can easily cover up your inbox until you’re ready to face it again.

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Unplugging Your Day

We use technology for everything. We use it to manage our communication, organize our finances, keep track of our schedules and even supplement our social lives. Email, word processing, social networking sites and Google have become mainstays in our daily lives. This week, I found that sometimes unplugging for an afternoon can do wonders for our time management.

My Unplugged Afternoon

I am teaching a few college classes in the near future and was struggling to come up with a course calendar. I sat staring at the blank Microsoft Word screen for 20 minutes as that blinking cursor seemed to mock me. Keeping Facebook, Gmail and other Time Killers at bay was becoming a strain.

Finally, I just couldn’t look at a computer screen anymore. I slammed my laptop shut, grabbed a notebook and pen, and went downstairs.

I suddenly felt more productive. Not only were some of my distractions instantly removed, but I somehow felt more free to brainstorm with a pen in my hand rather than a keyboard.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you trade an afternoon with your computer for a much cheaper “tablet.”

1) Faster Isn’t Always Better

Initially I was hesitant to do my work on paper because I can write so much faster on a computer. However, I realized that if I wasn’t writing anything I was wasting far more time than the extra few moments it takes me to form letters with a pen. The pen and paper method works great for planning, outlining and brainstorming. I could then use my computer to quickly type up my plan later.

2) A Change of Scenery is Key

Even if you have a laptop, you are still somewhat limited as to where you complete your work. You don’t want to be too far from a power outlet, nor do you want to be anywhere it could get easily damaged. Using a pen and paper eliminates those problems. Sometimes just being in a new place is enough to kick-start your productivity.

3) Technology is a Tool

Ultimately, it’s important to remember that we are still the ones doing the work. Technology is a tool we frequently leverage to help us, but we need not feel lost without it for a few hours. Sometimes getting off our desktops for a bit helps us better tap into our own personal computer that rests on our shoulders.

To be clear, I am a huge fan of technology and do not plan on throwing my laptop away any time soon. However, my “unplugged” afternoon was extremely productive. I plan to make another date with my pen and paper next week, and I encourage you to do the same!

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