If you spend a lot of your time at your computer (or even within earshot of it), you probably get some sort of “you’ve got mail” notification, like Microsoft Outlook’s Desktop Alerts. And if you’re trying to work on something else besides email, that’s distracting.
But you don’t want to miss anything important, either. How can you strike an effective balance between being accessible and getting stuff done?
Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.
Adjusting (or turning off) Outlook’s default New Mail Desktop Alert
By default, Microsoft Outlook displays a New Mail Desktop Alert box in the lower right-hand corner of your screen on top of the current window whenever a new email appears in your Inbox. The alert allows you to click on it to go directly to the email. However, a lot of users find it distracting, particularly while they’re working on a document.
You can either turn the alert off altogether, or you can adjust the transparency of it and the length of time it stays up if you just want a brief look at what’s coming in.
Go to Tools and click Options to go to the Options dialog box:
Click on Email Options button near the top right, then click Advanced Options in the middle:
To turn the Desktop Alert off altogether, uncheck the box next to “Display a New Mail Desktop Alert”. (You can also turn off the sound by unchecking the “play a sound” checkbox and get rid of the Taskbar envelope by unchecking the “show an envelope” checkbox.) If you want to adjust the settings of, click the Desktop Alert Settings button:
Since there’s no Tool menu beginning with Outlook 2010, go to the File tab and click Options:
Once you’re in Options, click Mail and scroll down to find the Message Arrival section:
Desktop notifications (the dialog box you get when you click the button on the right) work exactly the same way in 2010 as in 2007:
Get alerts for the stuff that’s really important
If you’re expecting something you don’t want to miss even while you’re in “do not disturb” mode, set up a Rule to pop up a special alert when that mail arrives.
Here’s the easiest way to do that. Find a recent email from that person and right-click on it. You’ll get this menu:
Click on Rules for the submenu, then on Create Rules to get the Create Rule dialog box:
You can pop up an Alert or you can play a sound. Or both.
You can always go back
If those email notifications are just a short-term annoyance (you’re trying to get a brief finished, for example), then you can always turn all this stuff back on. Or you can experiment with what level of notification you’re comfortable with day-to-day. It’s up to you.