If there is one thing that is almost guaranteed to wreck your productivity, it’s email. Or rather, your dependence on email.
Jocelyn K Glei in Time magazine wrote:
But in the context of email, it can create unrealistic expectations for how much we can take on. This is because there’s a fundamental imbalance in how much email you can receive (an infinite amount) and how much you can actually respond to (a limited amount). We feel a strong desire to reciprocate when someone sends us a message, yet we rarely have the bandwidth to respond to every single message. And it is this tension — between what we feel we should do and what we know we can do — that breeds email anxiety.
Yes, email is basically a drug. It needs your attention and it needs it now. You have to scratch that itch.
I didn’t know how bad my problem was so I actually took a tally. I conducted an exciting email experiment and counted how many times I checked my email for one day.
And the result?
Drum roll…I checked my email 62 times in one day.
That’s pretty sad.
So I thought I would do something about it. Because, you know, productivity is kind of important.
How to control your email addiction
I’ve decided I’m going for control here. I want to up my productivity level, but I don’t think anyone can seriously ditch email, unless they’ve decided to go and live on an island for five years. And even then, you might want to check in on what’s happening.
Control is what I need. So I worked through a few courses, read some serious articles, and came up with my plan. And here it is, for your perusal. This is my plan to control my email addiction and get some of my life back and get into that optimal productivity zone.
- I’m going to check my email first thing in the morning.
- I’m going to check my email last thing at night.
- Er…that’s it.
Every great system needs mechanics. That’s how the self help movement, for example, works. If you don’t have processes and rules then nothing gets done. With email checking, the following things will come with more control.
I’ll be able to clear my inbox in the morning before the day starts. That action alone will make me feel better and more in control.
By checking and dealing with email first thing in the morning, I’ll be able to respond to people before the day starts. I will look and feel awesome because of this.
All work that needs to be delegated will be taken care of before the work day starts. Anyone who has had to suffer last minute delegation issues will understand why this is a life-changing improvement.
By checking at the end of the day, I am able to put things to bed, or at least do the work I need to do to help things go to bed. And because it’s the end of the day, any drama has happened and I will just need to step in and finish.
I’ll be more in control because I will be able to address things at night that need to be done the next day. This doesn’t necessarily mean I’ll actually have to do any real work, but knowing what’s about to hit the fan the next day allows me to prepare for it.
I will feel better and more in control by checking my email at the end of the day. Clearing the inbox will close out the day and allow me to relax.
I don’t know how this is going to turn out, so I’m going to give it a week to see how it affects my life and productivity goals. I’m fully aware that it will be difficult. But the one thing that gives me hope is the understanding that some of the most important and accomplished people in the world didn’t use email.
Or to put it another way, Margaret Thatcher didn’t. And she was an accomplished human being. She did this, for example:
Okay, no one had email then, but if they did, this lady would probably have checked her email first thing in the morning and late at night. That allowed her to be awesome.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress…