Up until about a year ago, I didn’t realize that I was addicted to email. It was just like a little slot machine on my phone dinging away and encouraging me to look at it all the time. Once I did look at it, I got sucked in and either spent my free time working or reading emails when I was supposed to be finishing something else for work. It was a habit that was the root cause of my overworking tendencies.
A couple of articles I read about task switching enlightened me (they are linked below if you want to read them). I realized that I was letting email notifications disrupt and distract me and that it was resulting in massive time debt that had to come out of my free time.
Here’s how I got control of my email habit.
- Schedule time to read and respond to email and stick to your schedule.
- Close your email when it’s not time to work on it. You might be freaking out right about now, but I’m telling you no one will even notice (Note: My coworkers probably will now if they are reading this :)). If you are feeling uncomfortable with this, try scheduling 6-8 blocks of time at first where you check/respond to email. I read/respond to email three times per day.
- Turn off email notifications on your smartphone, laptop, PC, and tablet. If it’s an emergency, someone will call you I promise.
- Recognize when you are having an urge to check your email outside of when you have it scheduled. Try to figure out what you are thinking. I bet it’s some flavor of “I wonder what I’m missing” or “I don’t want to get behind”, neither of which are useful because they will just result in you missing out or getting behind on free time.
Treat your time like your money, my friends. Get curious about the little things that are using up your time without you even realizing it. Email was a big one for me and I’ll bet it is for you too.