Email addiction is a serious problem; sure, you could tell yourself that you can quit tomorrow if you wanted to, but let’s be real, overcoming email addiction is not going to be that simple.
Researchers claim that email abuse is more detrimental to your brain than drug abuse. Well, you see, it is not an issue to be taken lightly. If you find yourself checking your inbox once every 20 mins and feeling anxious when you don’t check in, you have got some work to do.
Here are a few easy-to-implement steps to overcome your email addiction:
1. Make it a point to stop leaving your email open in another tab
It is often the small things we do that act as catalysts to our email addiction, such as leaving the email open in another tab. Every time you hear the ping of a new email, you can’t help but get distracted and are itching to open your inbox and funnily enough, it probably is just some promotional email from Amazon.
When you keep switching between your email and the task at hand, which is basically multitasking, researchers say your productivity drops by 40%.
Bottomline is – make it hard for yourself to get distracted by keeping the candy away!
Switch off those push notifications, disable auto-refresh for emails on your phone and keep the email closed on your desktops. This in itself is a big stride towards overcoming your email addiction.
2. Take advantage of filters, labels and features that allow you to route unimportant emails to a separate folder
Gmail, and every other email platform, come with a set of brilliant features that let you sort and manage your inbox – make use of them.
Sometimes your email addiction is caused not as much by the need to quickly attend to business as by a psychosomatic need to achieve an inbox zero. The idea of a bunch of unread emails lying in your inbox is a cause of stress for you.
But you cannot maintain an inbox zero by living in your inbox, waiting for an email to come and then quickly replying to it. That is ineffective and a highly compulsive bad habit. Instead, make use of filters and labels that will allow you to reroute unimportant and low priority emails to a separate folder or to your virtual assistant.
For example, you are the founder of a company and it is quite possible that you get some customer support emails directly addressed to you. Here, you can use a filter or a rule to reroute the email to your customer support team without you having to worry about it. This way you have less on your plate to deal with. Plus, more organization leads to less stress.
3. Set new email etiquette by stopping the overuse of the CC button
Ask your team members/employees to add people to an email chain only when it is crucial for them to be in the loop. Make this etiquette a norm in your workplace.
If you want to remove someone from the loop after having added them, you can use the BCC option to do that. For example, if you introduced a friend of yours to a client via email, instead of you having to deal with all the useless extra emails between your friend and the client, ask your friend to remove you from the loop.
Follow this email etiquette and insist others around you to follow it too, making it easier on everybody.
4. Schedule a time for your email checking and stick to it
If you are looking for some magic formula to flush out your email addiction, that’s not happening. Tricks and tools can make it slightly easier for you to control yourself, but in the end, it really is about self-discipline.
So make a bargain with yourself. Tell yourself that you are allowed to check email 3-4 times every day at exactly the same time and fix the timings strategically so that you don’t miss out on important emails – maybe once in the morning before you start work, once after lunch and once sometime in the evening.
Stop checking emails before going to sleep or right after waking up and instead, replace email-checking with a healthy habit such as meditation.
5. Work to reduce the email influx
Along with keeping your email out of reach and out of mind, kicking down the volume of emails can also help you control the time you spend on your inbox.
Ask your friends, family, and coworkers to avoid emailing you unless it is absolutely necessary. Ask them to give you a call or even better send a text instead. If an email conversation exceeds 3 replies, pick up the phone and finish the conversation.
Also, if you have a lot of subscriptions, unsubscribe from the useless ones and organize the rest of the subscriptions using tools like unroll.me.
6. Come up with a system to deal with email responses
Scheduling and organizing your email replies is an important step. Have a system in place for that. For example, when checking your email, if you think that the reply for an email won’t take more than 2-3 minutes of your time then finish it then and there. Move anything which needs more time than that to your to-do list and has the response ready by one of your scheduled email-checking times.
Remember that it is important to move the emails to your to-do list, so that you don’t have to log into your inbox when working on the task.
7. Come up with something productive and interesting to do during the time you usually waste on email
So you scheduled your email-checking times and are doing your best to stick to it. But you are painfully aware of the time void you get from not whiling away on your inbox, making it harder for you to control yourself.
Here’s what you should do – find some meaningful and engaging way to fill that void. Fill it with reading a book or a few articles on the HBR, write a book, work on your side hustle, volunteer, spend time with friends etc.
All the extra time you get from not checking your emails is an opportunity for you to do the things you always wanted to do but never did do.
8. If you find yourself slipping back to old habits, do a detox
Despite all your efforts to control your addiction, it is quite possible to go off the rails once in awhile, but before that slip of yours can do any serious damage to your discipline, take action.
If you see that you are going back to old habits, give yourself an intervention and get off email for an entire day or a couple of days if you have to and then start fresh.
Plus, by staying off the email for a couple of days, you will come to see that the world will not end if you don’t check your emails!
9. Outsource your email management
Say, you have a high volume of incoming emails every day that you have to deal with and there is nothing you can do to reduce the volume as most of them are high priority emails. If that is the case, then outsourcing your email management will serve you better.
Hire a virtual assistant to deal with most of your emails, save the important ones.
Rather than spending 3-4 hours answering and checking emails, this is a way smarter option even though it costs you a little.
10. Use the 80/20 rule – focus on the money-making emails
Do 80/20 evaluation. Figure out which 20% of the emails bring your 80% of the results and focus your time on them.
Stop spending time on the emails which don’t produce any results or bring in any value. After all, email is there only to be able to give results, isn’t it?
There is a phenomenon called working for work’s sake which Tim Ferriss mentions in his 4 Hour Workweek book according to which we work so that we feel busy when in reality we are doing nothing important. Not prioritizing your emails and wasting time on all the unimportant ones falls under this category.
You can overcome your email addiction with some self-control and good email management practices. It is not that complex a task, but it can be a hard one. Don’t let this issue affect your health and work-life balance. You can make the most of email only if you use it in moderation.
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