Over the past two decades, electronic mail has revolutionized the way we communicate. The ease of email also means it’s easy to let it get out of hand. It’s not a healthy habit if you find you’re checking your email when trying to get to sleep, before you greet your family in the morning or when you should be concentrating on a specific work task. Many of us fall into the trap of obsessive email-checking — and there is a scientific explanation behind it.
Like Facebook notifications, receiving new email causes pleasure-inducing dopamine hormones to be released, until even the thought of finding an unopened email is enough to give you a “hit”. Breaking this self-perpetuating habit requires a combination of discipline, technique and software. The first step is to set yourself a three-checks-per-day rule. This saves a lot of time bouncing back and forth between the rest of your work and the ever-novel inbox. The amount of time you spend replying to each of these emails should also be disciplined. Choose how much time you can allocate to the task, set a timer and log out when it buzzes.
Your devices can also be set-up or programmed to help you. Don’t pin your email tab to your browser — it will constantly tempt you while you’re working on other tabs. Switch off push notifications on your phone, and consider using a habit-tracking app to monitor your “recovery” from email addiction. For your own part, consider sending fewer emails to start with. A phone call, instant message or a walk across the office to the would-be recipient can reduce the number of replies that come tumbling into your inbox.
These steps alone can help you kick the email habit, but there’s plenty more that can be done. Check out this new guide to countering your email addiction and wake up to the real world outside that inbox!
Kleinman, A. (2014). The 1 Thing Super Successful People Never Do In The Early Morning. huffingtonpost.com
Weinschenk, S. (2012). Why were all addicted to texts, twitter and google. psychologytoday.com
Habitica (2014). Your life the roleplaying game. habitica.com
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