5 Strategies to End Email Addiction
A few months ago, I re-watched the romantic classic, You’ve Got Mail.
I couldn’t help thinking about how sweet and dated it was! Little dial-up noises, and the joy that we used to feel when we’d hear the cheerful, ‘You’ve Got Mail,’ notification from AOL. Nowadays, most of us have far more email than we want or can handle.
It’s become the defacto form of communication for business and personal life, which also means that we receive anywhere from 50 to 500 emails daily. That’s why the skill to manage our email flow has become critical to our personal productivity. However, while I know that we’re not going to be eliminating this form of communication any time soon, we need to remember that email is NOT our friend. If left untamed, it’s definitely not constructive to our overall wellbeing.
A study conducted and presented in 2016 by Dr. Richard MacKinnon at the British Psychological Society Division of Occupational Psychology annual conference, found that by reducing the number of times we check our email, we can significantly reduce our stress levels. Additionally, most respondents reported checking their email early morning impacted their mood for the rest of the day and added more stress. That’s why changing this one facet of your workflow can have a dramatic impact on your whole life.
To help you improve your email stress, let’s dive into the top 5 tips to handle our email inbox better:
1 – PUT YOUR AGENDA FIRST!
The biggest problem with being addicted to our email inbox is that it’s a reactive rather than proactive mode of living. If we spend our work hours always replying to other people’s messages, then we’re not taking the time to work on the proactive and creative work that’s important to us.
Replying to everyone else’s questions and needs don’t move our priorities forward. Email is not one of our “Big Rocks,” as Stephen Covey would say. So, the best way to put email ‘in its place,’ is to know what our priorities are and work on them first.
Unfortunately, many people are so accustomed to running their day from their inbox that they don’t even know how to identify their priorities outside of it.
So, know what’s most important to you, and put your agenda and priorities first.
“When we guard the time we spend on checking emails every minute of every day, we can now instead spend more time on self-care and quality time with family, our kids, or loved ones.”
2 – AVOID EMAIL DURING YOUR FIRST 90 MINUTES OF WORK
Julie Morgenstern is famous for her book, Never Check Email in the Morning. Personally, I think she’s absolutely right for the reasons mentioned above. Your first block of work time is likely when your mind is freshest. Remember the study mentioned above about the impact of email on our stress level and mood and? Decide that it’s time to refrain from checking your email the moment you wake up or over coffee at the kitchen table.
3 – AVOID EMAIL FOR 90 MINUTES BEFORE BED
Another important step is to refrain from checking our email within 90 minutes of going to bed. Generally, checking email gets our brains revved up and thinking about tasks, conversations, and work. That’s not where you want your brain heading just before you’re aiming for a restful night’s sleep.
4 – MOVE YOUR EMAIL APP ICON OFF THE MAIN SCREEN
I used to have a horrible habit of picking up my smartphone and clicking the email app immediately. This habit meant that, for a while, I was checking my email 30 plus times a day. I realized the habit was AWFUL! It had to stop. But, the impulse was strong.
So, I moved the email app to the last page on my phone. In other words, with one simple change, I made it a lot harder to open my email by reflexive habit.
5 – COMMIT TO CHECK EMAIL NO MORE THAN THREE TIMES A DAY
Reduce the window of opportunity. By removing the early morning and late evening hours, you’ll narrow your email checking opportunities down to become more manageable. But, there are still a lot of hours that you could randomly keep checking your inbox. Why not create a schedule or pattern for how this task fits into your day at specific points?
For me, it’s usually late morning (around 11 am), early afternoon (around 2:30 pm), and just before signing off for the day (around 4:30 pm). Honestly, often it’s only twice a day at 11 am & 4:30 pm. Anything that comes in after that can usually wait for tomorrow.
HELPFUL TIP: It might help to find something else as a replacement habit. Each time you would have jumped into your email inbox, what could you do instead?
• Open your task list?
• Turn on a song and dance for 3 minutes?
• Open your eBook app and read for 5 minutes?
If you’ve recognized that some of these tricks might address your email addiction, then give them a whirl. As they say, the first step is acknowledging we have a problem. Breaking email addiction can be challenging for some people, but once you’ve tasted freedom from your inbox, you’ll never want to go back.
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