Monday, February 17, 2020

How to Stop Email From Running Your Life

Well, here's a depressing statistic: people on average spend more than five hours a day checking their email, according to an Adobe survey.

When you think of what you could get done in five hours a day if you weren't checking email -- well, it boggles the mind. You might get to leave work on time every day. You might not be forced to work nights or weekends just to catch up on your work. You might even be a nicer, happier person.

Of course, not all that email checking is for work reasons -- the survey finds that more than two hours (143 minutes) is spent checking personal emails. Some of you might not realize that the time you spend entering the HGTV dream house sweepstakes or responding your Mom's email about your high-school bestie getting divorced eats into your day -- but it does. It really does.

Everyone complains about email. We fume about the colleagues who send too many messages and CC's everyone, we whine about the boss who can't go more than 20 minutes without sending an email and we go crazy looking at an inbox with hundreds of unread messages.

But what if the problem is really closer to home? What if we don't take the advice to turn off our email alerts seriously, or we just have to open the Netflix email to learn about the documentary about flaming underpants that we cannot miss? 

Look at it this way: Could you turn off your email alerts for 30 minutes to work uninterrupted if it meant you could leave work earlier than usual? Could you slap "spam" on many of your personal emails and stop opening them? Or, could you set up a second email account that will only be for personal emails and stop checking them at work? Could you start picking up the phone and calling someone if you need to write more than a handful of sentences since that would be a more efficient give-and-take conversation?

You may not think any of these strategies will work for you or claim you've tried them before and they don't work. But try this: Track the number of times you open an email during a day. Be honest -- no trying to change your numbers by refusing to open the latest Fantasy Football email from a friend.

My guess is that you're going to be unpleasantly surprised by how your life is being overtaken by your bad email habits. You're also probably going to see how you're blaming the lion's share of your email overload on others, when it's really something much more under your control.

This isn't a difficult problem to solve. If you want hours of your life back, just use common sense. Decide what's more important -- spending time with your family or friends or checking out the cruise offer you can't afford. I think you'll probably figure out pretty quickly that it's worth it to exert more control over your inbox and get work done instead of letting your inbox run your life.

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