Start Page: Fighting interruption addiction, continued

Kim Brand
May 22, 2013
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Kim BrandIn my last column, I confessed I was addicted to interruptions: email, voice mail, texts, phone calls, Twitter feeds, etc. Studies have shown multitasking lowers IQ.

This article continues where I left off. If you want the whole thing, send a note to or check the March 27, 2013, issue of Indiana Lawyer. Search “Brand” at, and you’ll find it there, too.

Attention management strategies

Along the path to recovering my lost ability to focus and reserving more time to think, I’ve employed these strategies that have really helped:

• Make appointments with yourself. Respect those appointments the way you would if you were spending the time with a client.

• Dedicate blocks of time to a task and refuse interruptions during those blocks. The “Pomodoro Technique” is a popular system that has you set aside 25-minute blocks to focus on a particular task. But you can start with any size block and graduate to 25 minutes if that seems too hard. Aficionados actually use cute tomato timers to track their time. (Visit for more.)

• Use guilt to reform your multitasking behavior. Think of multitasking the way you do of other unhealthy habits like eating fattening foods – it is! When you catch yourself multitasking, shame yourself into single tasking. Auditing your multitasking behavior and simply noticing the number of interruptions you are subjected to is a good first step on the path to a more productive lifestyle. Set attention goals and work toward them.

Use Outlook rules to ration attention

We all receive too much email. A 2011 report by The Radicati Group indicates the average email user exchanges over 100 messages a day. The main problem with email is that all incoming messages generally arrive in one place: your inbox. So the first step to reclaiming a big portion of the attention you pay to your inbox is to automate the redirection of some of those messages to folders you can check less frequently. Basically, that involves classifying messages and moving them by using Outlook rules.

Many people use folders to organize messages. I recommend adding at least five folders named for the source or target of the message. I call these folders “Attention Zones.”

Folder name/ Rule

Copied to me: All mail in which my email address appears in the cc: field

Internal :All mail sent to me from within my company

Lists: All mail sent from list servers

Read later: Interesting; but read later

Unsubscribe: Not interesting – get them to stop ASAP!

Mail which is copied to me does not usually require urgent attention. It was, after all, copied to me. I review the contents of this folder a couple times a day. I may want to do something based on the message, but it is not as high a priority as mail directed to me.

Internal email includes messages that were sent from my colleagues – in other words, from email addresses inside my company. These messages can safely be reviewed less frequently based on the assumption that if someone in my company needed to reach me urgently they could stop by my office or call me.

Lists are obviously less important. They only need to be reviewed on a “time available” basis. In my world that is synonymous with never. You can automate the redirection of Listserv email in a variety of ways, but the simplest is to use an alias when you subscribe. That way a simple rule can be used to direct all email sent to that address to the “Lists” folder.

“Read later” actual means try to read later. These are messages that may be very interesting or refer to subject matters you are researching and will want to have later. Some messages are moved into this folder manually – but using Outlook’s Quick Step feature makes it, well, quicker.

“Unsubscribe” is for email you never wanted. The trick here is to process them in batches rather than individually. Better yet, delegate this folder to a staff member who can do it for you. It’s easy to do with Outlook and an Exchange server.

Using this system, I have been able to save about an hour a week. Nobody has complained that I didn’t respond promptly, and I get to spend more of my attention on high-priority messages.

Rich or poor, we all have the same 24 hours in a day to pay attention to what is most important to us. Learning to demand a higher return on the attention we pay for is a 21st century necessity.•


Kim Brand is a technology expert and president of Computer Experts, Inc. in Indianapolis. He is the inventor of FileSafe, the only on-premises file server priced like a cloud service. He speaks and writes frequently on technology subjects – making them interesting and understandable. The opinions expressed are those of the author.


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  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues