Tech has made communication eons faster and more efficient than we’d’ve ever imagined. It’s impossibly easy and convenient to create, connect, and correspond thanks the little supercomputer in our pockets (our phone).
We can literally be halfway around the world and still reach all our better halves, friends, families (and work). It’s no wonder Americans spend an average of five hours a day on their phones. And what are we doing for the majority of these hours?
Checking our emails.
The pressure to stay up-to-date with our inboxes (aka “inbox zero”) has resulted in workers feeling overwhelmed and anxious, which self-perpetuates our email addiction.
Email checking has become an epidemic, and we’ve got the stats to prove it:
We sometimes feel tethered as email can become a habit outside of expected work hours. The reason we can get hooked on checking our inbox is that it produces a reward – a small stimulus “what’s happening” with the arrival of a new email. When we feel rewarded our bodies release dopamine, a hormone closely associated with feelings of pleasure. The more we open our emails, the more hits of dopamine we receive, effectively creating a feedback loop nurturing the addictive habit.
So how do we break the cycle? It can be especially challenging when work emails are involved, namely, work with a time constraint. However do not sacrifice your tech/life balance – more often than not, that email can wait.
Here are 5 ways to control the urge:
If your day typically revolves around checking your email, then you’re setting yourself up for more anxiety than you may realize. If you think it’s making you more productive than ever,
think again. There’s an overwhelming amount of evidence connoting obsessive inbox-checking as counterproductive. In fact, people find it more difficult to concentrate when constantly interrupted. When emails are consistently cutting into your day it can become difficult to resume tasks. It takes about 64 seconds for your brain to recover and continue your train of thought after reading an email, according to a study from Loughborough University.
Productivity experts recommend limiting the number of times you check your inbox daily. Research from the University of British Columbia found that checking your email just three times a day resulted in feeling less stressed and more productive while carrying out other tasks.
A cluttered email inbox can contribute to stress. Given the high number of emails an average worker receives daily, it’s no wonder they spend 6.3 hours a day checking their inbox.
When decluttering your inbox, it helps to use filters and folders to separate the types of emails you receive, i.e. work or personal. This will help you respond to important emails first and leave less pressing matters for later.
Reduce email clutter by unsubscribing to any non-essential mailing lists, newsletters, and promo notifications. Before sending out an email, think about whether you’re using the best medium for the said message. Is instant messaging a better alternative? A phone call? Can you walk to the next cubicle and have a quick in-person chat? If there are better channels in which to convey the message, then don’t send out the email.
In order to achieve full independence from your inbox, keep your distance. And what better way than not letting it reach you: out of sight, out of mind.
Kick your email addiction by turning off push notifications on your phone. You don’t need to know you have a new message the very second you receive one.
To help lessen your urge, to check on emails, make them more difficult to access. For starters, stop charging your phone by your bedside in the evening. Charge it as far away as possible so it’s more difficult for you to check it in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. Additionally, don’t add all your email addresses to your email app on your phone. This will force you to log-in using your browser or computer and hopefully keep work emails to business hours only. You can also bury your mail app in a number of folders and away from your home screen so it’s more difficult to reach. You can even download apps that can block other apps on your phone to make your email less accessible (Hello, BOLDFISH!)
Just like any habit, email checking can be taken too far. Make sure you’re keeping an eye on your usage and use these tips to avoid obsessively opening and closing (and opening) your email.