Feeling chained to your email? Can’t go an hour without reading and responding to messages? Here’s how you can get your email over-consumption under control.
“Batch” your email
Tim Ferriss’ book, The Four-Hour Work Week, presents a number of time management tips, including a few that can help curb email addiction. One of his most popular suggestions is to “batch” your email by only checking it at two specific times each day. Your first check-in should be at around 10 or 11 a.m. (never first thing in the morning) followed by another check around 4 p.m. Worried coworkers and clients might think you’ve lost touch? Consider setting up an automatic reply that shares your schedule, with a note to call for urgent matters.
Manage your to-dos elsewhere
I am 100 percent guilty of this: sending myself multiple emails after work hours with reminders like “call mom” or “deposit check.” Ferriss says you should never use your inbox as a to-do list, which makes sense, considering how overwhelmed I feel every time I access mine! In addition to stressing you out, this practice causes visual distraction. Instead of contributing to the clutter, jot down your to-dos in a notebook or use a note-taking app on your phone for those late-night “ah-ha” moments.
Clear your inbox. Everyday.
Does that scare you? It shouldn’t! Gina Trapani with Lifehacker.com came up with this genius filing system that will help keep your inbox completely clear. Sort your email into the following categories:
Follow-up: Messages that require your response but will take longer than two minutes (if it will take less than that, just respond right away).
Archive: Think of this as an email reference library for completed threads, requests and memos that you’ve read and answered but may want to reference at a later date.
Hold: For those messages that you’ll need in the near future but are waiting on someone else’s response.
Retool your system
If the amount of time you spend on email is interfering with your personal life or work productivity, you may need to adjust your habits. Make it a personal goal to not check email first thing in the morning and only after completing at least one important task or project. Check your email once on Saturday and Sunday, with the larger goal of avoiding it completely on the weekends. For more control, turn off your phone’s push notification and consider a similar setting on your computer’s email program that only sends and receives messages when you want it to.
Addicted? Get help.
While some people are able to control their compulsive email behavior on their own, others can seek help through professional assistance. Cognitive behavioral therapy can be beneficial for technology addicts because it teaches people to recognize erratic thought patterns and how to change them. Email addiction is categorized as a type of impulsive compulsive disorder and it can be a real problem. There is no shame in getting help if you need it!
About the author: Katarina Kovacevic is a freelance writer specializing in travel, spa, and beauty and wellness. She’s the author of The Food Lovers’ Guide to Phoenix & Scottsdale and founder/editor of Style Jaunt, a blog about fashionable travel. Her work has appeared in publications like American Spa, The Knot, The New York Post, SheKnows.com and more. Follow her on Twitter @Little_K.