The noise an incoming email makes.

Once upon a time when the internet was young, getting an email was a magical experience. It was something someone you knew sent you because spam wasn’t yet a thing. Connecting a noise notification to an email by default made sense. It made people excited about the medium and made sure people didn’t forget about it since those rare emails alerted you of their presence.

Over the last 20 years, email has become commonplace. Most people send multiple emails a day, and likely receive dozens. It’s no longer a rare event, nor something people forget about. Yet, we still have that annoying default noise of an incoming message. If you receive similar email quantities as me and you don’t turn your sound off, or turn off the alert noise, you’ll be hearing it every few minutes throughout the day.

The average person is engaged in a battle for their attention. These notifications are a remnant of a past era. They were integrated into the system for a reason, then the reason was long forgotten. They simply exist as an irritation these days.

If a system is built to make you behave a certain way, it doesn’t mean you have to obey it. You can bend it. Of course, it’s important to bend it in a way that others participating in the system expect. If your coworkers expect responses within a day, it’s not a great idea to check email once per week, but it may be a great idea to check once per day instead of every 5 minutes. Systems get adapted to the current needs, though they were often put in place based on past needs. That’s okay, just make sure expectations about those changes are clear.