Email is a great form of communication – when used wisely. However, that is often not the case, and the results are email addiction and email overload. A few simple things can be done to your email behaviour to improve your effectiveness and wellbeing at work.
Here are some helpful guidelines for mindful and effective emailing.
1. Avoid email addiction
How often do you check your email? A few times a day? Hourly? Every time that gadget in your pocket buzzes or lights up? Can you honestly go without checking your email for any significant stretch of time?
“Email addiction” is a widespread condition that many of us have, but few of us are aware of. In fact, doctors have estimated 11 million Americans suffer from email addiction. If you think this sounds crazy, think again.
Email addiction is principally the same as any other type of dependency. When you receive a grateful message from a client, praise from your boss, an interesting article or a funny joke, your brain releases dopamine — a neurotransmitter released in the brain that makes you feel good. Craving that lift from a nice or funny email creates a tendency to check your email more and more often. Further, every time you respond to an email, dopamine is released as a reward, and makes you want to have more. When the pattern is repeated over a period of time, addiction is created.
2. Kill all notifications
To overcome email addiction there are a number of things you can do. The first is to eliminate all notifications.
Having your email always on, even if only in the background, creates a lot of distractions. Distractions make you multitask, and according to research, multitasking is the mother of all evil when it comes to performance and wellbeing.
One of the simplest ways to improve performance and wellbeing is by switching off all email notifications, pop-up windows, alarms, and ring tones.
Over the next couple of days, pay attention to what happens to your focus, your productivity, and your well-being each time you’re distracted by an email notification. Then try working for a couple days with the notifications switched off. After that, you can make an informed decision about what works best for you.
A lot of the time, getting a new email pulls our focus away from the job at hand, forcing us to shift from task to task. The next guideline for mindful emailing is to stop that shifting before it starts.
3. Mind your switch time
Addicted or not, many people leave their email open all day long. It helps them feel like they’re perpetually productive and constantly up to date. Always online, they often answer emails shortly after receiving them.
If you allow your focus to shift every time a new email arrives, you’re wasting time. It takes your brain several seconds to concentrate on a new email, and then the same time again to return your focus to your previous work — or perhaps even longer. Besides taking up time, shifting back and forth between tasks uses up a lot of energy, making you less effective overall.
To eliminate switch time, switch off your email system when you are not actively using it, and allow yourself longer periods of time during the day, where it is not open.
Beyond turning off your notifications and minding your switch time, you can structure your emailing in a way that ensures the most effective start of your day.
4. Never first thing in the morning
Do you check your emails first thing in the morning? If so, there might be room for improvement.
In the morning, the brain is generally most alert, most focused and most creative. Opening your email first thing in the morning immediately draws you into an onslaught of details from yesterday. As your brain adapts to the pace of email, your early morning creative energy dissipates.
Choosing email as your first task of the day can be a wasted opportunity to use your mind at its highest potential. Instead, try waiting at least half an hour to an hour after you get to work before checking your inbox.
Rasmus Hougaard is an internationally acknowledged expert in training the mind to be focused and clear at work. He is the founder of The Potential Project – a leading global provider of corporate based mindfulness solutions operating in 20 countries. He and his teams are training senior executives, leaders and employees in organizations like Google, Nike, Accenture, GE and many other organizations in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia. Rasmus is author of the book “One Second Ahead – Enhancing Performance at work with Mindfulness”. Read more at: www.potentialproject.com
Gillian has over 20 years of experience as a leader and change agent in the sales and operations functions of large corporations. She has worked across a range of industries including retail, government, transport, oil and gas, and human services. Gillian is a Partner with The Potential Project Australia. Her clients include Yahoo!7, Telstra, and large not-for-profit organisations. She also sits on a number of boards and supports organisations integrating mindfulness into leadership. Gillian is co-author of the book “One Second Ahead”.
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