How to escape email in 4 simple steps
Could you imagine life without email? From business to leisure, its effect on communication has been profound, boosting connectivity by removing the need to schedule telephone or face-to-face conversations.
However, there’s also a downside. Email can be a distraction that interrupts your workflow, or it can even become an obsession, with the urge to check your inbox taking you away from productive work or social interaction.
How can you tell that email has started to become a time sink rather than a useful tool? If you recognise the following signs, you may well have crossed the line.
- If you repeatedly refresh your inbox, sometimes even just seconds after last doing so.
- You check your email first thing in morning, last thing at night, and whenever you have a spare moment throughout the day.
- Your smartphone alerts start to take precedence over everything else, demanding your attention while you’re in social company or should be busy doing something more productive.
So, if it’s becoming clear that your time spent on email is growing out of all proportion, what can you do? There are four main tactics you can use to restore a little normality.
Get Some Perspective
First of all, email needs to be put back in perspective. No message is so urgent that it can’t wait until you’re ready and able to deal with it. In a true life-and-death situation, other communication methods from SMS to old-fashioned phone calls can be used to get in contact.
Adopt the ‘Look Once’ Habit
Try and force yourself to deal with every email as soon as you open it, rather than filing it away for later action. Aim to look at each email only once, before deleting or archiving it, with its purpose served. Once you get into this habit, the knowledge that checking your email will involve actual work will give you a pause for thought beforehand.
Schedule Email Duties
Rather than responding to emails throughout the day, try and set yourself specific periods when you’ll deal with your inbox, leaving all other times free to focus on something else.
Relegate the Smartphone
One of the prime causes of email tyranny is the smartphone. Where once you needed to be in the office to receive email, you’re now expected to be reachable anytime, anywhere. Don’t be afraid to turn off notification alerts for emails when not at work, even if you can’t afford to switch off your phone altogether. Once again, if something is truly important, contact can be made in an alternative way.
For all its faults, email remains a valuable tool for both business and personal communication. However, if you let it take too strong a hold, it quickly becomes counterproductive. Take back control of your inbox, and you’ll see the benefits return.