Reduce E-Mail Distractions with Gmail Desktop Notifications

Attorneys are increasingly using e-mail as their preferred method of communication. While there are times when e-mail is not the most efficient method of communicating, monitoring e-mail likely occupies a decent portion of your day.

One alternative to staring at your inbox is enabling desktop notifications for Gmail.

How it works

You need to have a Gmail account and access it through Google’s Chrome Browser. I do not use Microsoft Outlook, but I believe it has a similar feature available.

In your Gmail account, go into settings > General. About halfway down your screen, there is a box that says “desktop notifications.” Click on “new mail notifications on.” You can also turn on desktop notifications for Google chat. Lastly, scroll down and hit “save changes.”

Because this is feature was recently introduced, you may also see a message at the top of your Gmail inbox asking if you would like to enable desktop notifications, which should also get the job done.

When you get a new e-mail, a tiny box will pop up saying who the e-mail is from and provide a snippet of the body of the e-mail. If is something you can ignore, no further action is needed. The alert box does not stay on your screen for long, so you can literally let it fade away, or click to close it.

Useful for when you need to keep tabs on e-mail

If you really need to get something done, you can always close your e-mail entirely. When I need to write a memorandum or zone in on something, I usually just close my e-mail. Believe it or not, studies have shown that focusing makes you happier.

For some people, however, closing their e-mail is impossible. Not knowing if new e-mail has arrived is more of a distraction than constantly checking their e-mail. For people like that, desktop notifications are good a compromise. You can ignore e-mails that do not require immediate attention, but you still get notified when something important pops in.


Randall Ryder
Randall sues debt collectors that harass consumers, assists consumers with student loan issues, and defends consumers in debt collection lawsuits. He is also an attorney instructor at the University of Minnesota Law School.


  1. Although I agree that using Gmail notifier is better than leaving Gmail open, it’s only marginally better. Giving your email the ability to interrupt to your workflow is a fantastic way to kill productivity.

    Yes, your email should be CLOSED most of the time. If someone tries to get your attention by sending you an email, don’t reward them by replying immediately. Instead, explain that if they need you on a moment’s notice they should call.

    We train other people how to behave by modeling behavior. Email is great for asynchronous coordination, not immediate communication. DO NOT allow people to grab your focus with email!

  2. Avatar Peter Sandhu says:

    I use a free program from Google called Gmail Notifier.

    It shows up in the bottom right corner, in your system tray, whenever there is new email. You don’t need any browser open for it to work.

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