Turn Off Email and try a Deep Thought Experiment

Deep Thought Experiment

A deep thought experiment is where you try to solve problems using a conceptual approach, rather than by performing actual experiments.

Gedankenexperiment, the German term for a “thought experiment”, was greatly popularized by Albert Einstein.

These are also referred to as “Thought Experiments” or a “Deep Thinking Exercise”.

Perhaps Einstein’s most famous “deep thought experiment” was one he performed at the age of 15.  He imagined what would happen if he rode on a wave of light and looked across at another wave of light moving parallel to him.

This deep thought experiment, along with many others he pondered, formed the foundations to his building the theory of general relativity.

So, am I expecting anyone reading this post to develop the next breakthrough in theoretical physics?


So, what does a deep thought experiment have to do with the problem of Email Overload?

Let me explain…

Email is one of the biggest sources of “noise” for the modern business user.

In fact, recent surveys have identified Email as the biggest source of interruptions in the modern business environment.

But you must turn off the noise so you can think!

In the 1997 book Data Smog, journalist David Shenk discusses how the constant stream of information, messages, and interruptions bombard us on a daily basis.

Data smog gets in the way; it crowds out quiet moments, and obstructs much-needed contemplation.
— David Shenk


This noise and these interruptions hinder our ability to concentrate, to think deeply, to ponder, and to imagine.

For business users, typical interruptions include:

  • Emails
  • Phone calls
  • Text messages / IMs
  • Co-workers
  • Web browsing

The net result is a significant fragmentation of your workday with interruptions and distractions as the primary source of the problem.

Current research indicates that:

  • The typical business user works for only three minutes on a task before being interrupted.
  • Major interruptions occur every 11 minutes.
  • The average time to return to an interrupted task is 25 minutes.

Research has identified many problems associated with these interruptions and distractions.

Some of the biggest issues include:

  • Loss of memory accuracy.
  • Omissions (forgetting).
  • Errors (distortions).
  • Decreased decision accuracy.
  • Lack of certainty around the decisions made.
  • Increased decision time.
  • Missed deadlines.
  • Incomplete work.

So, how do you disconnect?  It's easy!

  • Put your office phone on "do not disturb".
  • Put your cell phone on “silent”.
  • Close your office door or go somewhere quiet.
  • Turn-off new Email message notifications or just shut down your Email client entirely.
  • Turn off your computer monitor.


… think about how to really solve that problem… … start to imagine new directions for your business… … create new connections between disparate concepts… … dream about what you want to achieve... 

.. or if you are an Einstein, imagine you are riding that beam of light….

Check-Out Data Smog and other great Information Overload books: