Can you remember life before email? I’m 35 years old and very thankful that I can. It was a simpler, more peaceful existence. Slower paced and far less chaotic. But as with everything, the world changes – it always will – and we must change right along with it if we want to keep up.
In many ways I love and am thankful for the invention of email – it allows introverts like me a chance to work and communicate without having to be around people all day long (how exhausting!). It can be a huge time saver too. But lately, I’ve begun to notice that my relationship with my inbox has taken a turn … has become something dare I say unhealthy in nature. This caused me to take a good hard look at how I relate to, think about, and use my email inbox – and what I can do to improve my practices so that I can do more living and less, ahem, refreshing.
First, a quick self diagnosis. Are any of these statements true for you?
I check my email more than ten times a day.
I feel more relaxed when I know I’ve addressed every email in my inbox.
I begin to feel anxious when I haven’t checked my inbox for several hours.
My email inbox is always an open tab in my internet browser.
I often get distracted from what I’m doing by an email that comes in.
If your answer to all those questions was a big fat NO, then congratulations! You have no cause to keep reading this blog post (unless it’s for a friend). But if you’re like most of us, you probably had a few yeses in there, and I encourage you to keep reading. Here are three ways in which I’ve changed my email practices to live a more peaceful life.
1) Turn off phone notifications.
I know, it sounds crazy. But hear me out. I turned off my email notifications on my phone about a week ago, and while it was hard at first, it’s gotten easier and easier – and payoff has been great. When I’m out and about, I feel more relaxed and carefree. And the best part? I feel like I’m in control. I’m no longer at the mercy of incoming messages. I get to decide when I want to receive them.
2) Designate times for inbox checking and stick to it!
Easier said than done, but I promise you – if you can get into the habit of checking your email morning, noon, and night – your productivity will increase more than you thought was possible. If you’re a Gmail user, there’s a fantastic tool called Boomerang which can do this automatically for you, so that email only comes in at designated times.
3) Cut yourself some slack.
I used to be deeply attached to a notion that people rely on me and consider me responsible because I always get back to them immediately. It took me a long time to realize how rigid and impossible this standard was that I was holding myself to. If I get back to people four hours later (or even the next day), will that change their overall opinion about my work ethic and my character? Of course not. It’s the work you do and the relationships you form that matter in the end – not your average email response time.