Distraction-Free GMail-ing

Distraction-Free GMail-ing

Tell me if this has happened to you: you need to email someone about something important, so you hop into your mail program to fire off the email. However, the first thing you see upon firing up Thunderbird/Eudora/Mail is your inbox, and in it you see a few tasty subjects that have you clicking away and laughing. You spend 30 minutes processing the emails, get ready to shut down the computer and head home, and then…oh, I forgot to actually send that email.

This happens to me multiple times a day, and I’d sort of accepted it as the inevitable price that point-and-click has exacted from my brain. In fact, the reason I’m writing this post is because IT JUST HAPPENED AGAIN. But it occurred to me that I have a solution, thanks to my current email setup.Some time ago I had dumped my desktop mail clients and switched everything to Google Apps, which had several advantages for me:

  • Google’s servers now handle my mail. Before, my (dv) handled it, and it’s a huge administrative headache due to the incredible volume of spam that’s sent. I also still get to use my domain name, davidseah.com, in my email addresses, thanks to the magic of MX records.
  • My mail is basically GMail, and so I get superior spam protection.
  • It also comes with Calendar, Docs, and other things that are useful.
  • It doesn’t cost anything, other than the ethical cost of allowing Google’s spiders to sift my mail so they can hit me with context-sensitive sidebar ads.
  • I can now access my mail from any browser on any computer, and not worry about synchronizing messages

It’s this last feature, plus my use of a cross-platform “private landing page” with all my common bookmarks, that makes it possible to jump directly to the compose window of my gmail. In other words:

  1. If I avoid seeing my inbox when I’m composing mail, I’m less likely to be distracted.
  2. If I link directly to the compose function of GMail, I can avoid seeing my inbox.
  3. Productivity ensues! :-)

This is not a grand revelation by any stretch, but it’s Friday and feel like sharing it :-)

You can grab the URL from GMail directly by clicking the Compose Mail link and copying it. For mine:

For Google Apps:


For GMail:


This presumes that your gmail account is set to remember that you’re logged in, which is the way I run mine. And replace davidseah.com in the first example with your own domain that’s been set-up for Google Apps.

On my personal landing page, I now have a URL called “Compose Mail” that points to the links above. I’m hoping it cuts down on the amount of distraction, so I can send an email FIRST, then be distracted after the fact. Ideally I shouldn’t see the inbox at all, of course, after sending mail, but this is a useful first pass.


  1. Andrew R 14 years ago

    I used mailplane for the last 2 years specifically for the reasons mentioned above. There are also a few more identical products, paid and open source out there such as:


    Link to MailPlane + Review:

    I would assume folks have used the same idea/concept with WebKit
    for Windows

  2. Anthony Ginepro 14 years ago

    Nice tip about directly opening compose window, so simple I never thought about it. However I still see the number of new posts into my inbox and other labels which attract me to open and check what’s new …

    Thanks for your share !

  3. diogo 14 years ago

    Anthony, you can use the GmailThis bookmarklet to have a window without anything else other than the compose area.

  4. diogo 14 years ago

    Oh, I forgot the link:
    GmailThis bookmarklet

  5. Peter Knight 14 years ago

    Nice tip to go straight to the compose window. I’m actually heading a project for a webapp that – among other things – let’s you email without having to travel to an email client or login to gmail/etc, for times when all you want to do is send an email and not be distracted by unread counts.

  6. Ondřej Maly 14 years ago

    Thanks for good inspiration, I like this idea. The aim could be achieved in Thunderbird as well. Just create the launcher pointing to ‘thunderbird -compose’ (w/o quotes).
    Source: Yahoo Answers – Thunderbird, Compose directly

  7. Tom Murphy 14 years ago

    I’d be interested to learn more about your “private landing page”



  8. Matt 14 years ago

    Thanks for the tip(s)… I learn a lot from your blog every week!

    I take it you are using the Standard Edition of Google Apps?


  9. Britt 14 years ago

    I’ve noticed that it’s a problem for me just having my email located in my browser.  Just the act of bringing up a browser window seems to give the naughty distracto part of my brain permission to start clicking on random tabs.  I often don’t even make it to my inbox before I’m off down some weird rabbit-hole of web-surfing.

    One way to help avoid inbox distraction might be to practice Inbox Zero (http://inboxzero.com/articles/) : process all mail onto to-do lists as soon as it comes in so that there are only a few messages there any time you look.

  10. Staale 14 years ago

    Thanks brother!

    I’ve had the same problem for years, and today I thought I have to do something about it. I wasn’t sure whether the compose was an actual url so I googled it instead and came across your article. Now let’s see how much productive it actually makes me. :) Cheers.