Don’t Drown In Your Daily Flood Of Emails: 6 Top Tips
Every day, 280 billion emails are sent around the world, and sometimes it feels like they’re all reaching your personal mailbox. At once. This is especially true on Monday mornings, dialling your stress meter right up and making your feelings of weekend relaxation fly out of the window. Constant email updates can act as a toxic source of stress to your body.
Why do our emails bombard us on a daily basis?
- Emails require our attention, activity and response, which means they take up a lot of time
- Checking your emails can become an addictive and stressful habit
- They all scream: URGENT! It can be overwhelming to be flooded with so many requests
- The messages sometimes raise more questions than answers and create more stress
- Emails distract us: whether they’re disguised as spam, overly long or just unnecessary. It can be difficult to filter out what is important
- Communication can be confusing and ineffective- sometimes a simple phone call is enough
Can I reduce the craziness that is email stress?
Like every aspect of your life, you have full control over how you let it affect you.
A study in 2014 done by the University of British Columbia found that the more you check and refresh your emails per day, the higher your stress levels.
The ideal number of times you should check your email was determined to be three per day. In the experiment, the 124 test subjects’ push notifications and email reminders were switched off. Their stress and tension levels were comparatively lower than on days where constant email refreshing and prompts were enabled.
But is it not vital that I always stay connected?
As emails form such a large part of our daily lives, both at work and personally, we are often unaware of the stress they create. Being constantly available has become the new norm.
Our attention is being pulled into a million different directions- and away from what actually requires our attention. The never ending multitasking can be distracting and cause us to leave tasks uncompleted and feel like we have never finished what we set out to do.
The flood of emails washing over you is similar to background noise and is no longer perceived separately because it is always present. But the stress effects on the body are still perceived: blood pressure rises, your breathing becomes flatter and your pulse rate increases.
Even vacations and weekends, which are meant to relax and de-stress, don’t give us the chance to unwind. We are still just as connected as at work, and emails pour in regardless. We are torn between the stress of checking emails on off days versus facing the immense build-up of emails when you return to work.
So…how do I control my email flood?
The most important thing to realise is that organisation is key. Your inbox does not have to control you! With these simple tips you’ll be navigating your emails with a smile instead of stress.
1. Give your email inbox ‘office hours’
You have two options:
You could set a limit to the number of times you check your inbox per day- four times is the maximum recommended. This keeps continuous refreshing and email checking down to a minimum, reducing the stress caused by constant multitasking and availability.
Or you could schedule yourself a fixed window of time with a concrete beginning and end during which to read emails. The time at the end of your work day is ideal to work on the latest news and updates, which allows you to leave the office having completed your tasks and feeling accomplished as such.
An important feature of implementing these ‘office hours’ is to communicate them to those around you. The best way to do this would be to send a standardised response mail indicating your available time in the signature of your messages. By letting others know about your new email times, both you and your coworkers are more likely to stick to the specifics you have set out.
Another way to separate business communication from other emails is by using alternative communication applications such as Slack or Skype exclusively for work.
2. Don’t let push messages control you
Push messages enable us to be constantly alerted about incoming messages, so that we can reply as soon as we receive them. But you can limit what actually pops up on your screen and grabs your attention, distracting you from your current task.
By doing this, you leave the really interesting but really distracting news about the latest dog trend waiting quietly in your inbox for a later time, instead of immediately distracting you.
3. The notification sound of an incoming message can be a major stressor
Studies have proven that notifications received for emails and text messages trigger a release of dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that is associated with behaviours similar to addiction and reward-seeking actions. It takes an average of 25 minutes to refocus on a task after being interrupted by a notification. In essence: notification sounds act similar to a drug to our brain, distracting it from what it was focusing on and triggering the need for a repeated interaction.
The easiest way to change this is to simply mute your notifications and destress your work environment. Alternatively, you could also choose a select few important emails that trigger notifications, such as messages from your boss.
4. Choose who you allow to send you an email
We click ‘subscribe’ and say yes to newsletters more than we realise, often because we are genuinely intrigued by a company and its offers. This does, however, lead to a cluttered inbox filled emails ranging from coupons and promotions to marketing and informational material. Our email address often ends as part of numerous lists, many of which we are not even interested in.
Take some time to sort through your inbox and unsubscribe from content that is no longer relevant to you. You could also apply filters to do the sorting for you, which brings us to tip 5
5. Use a filtering feature to organise your inbox
Technology allows for many simple tools and tricks to help you organise your inbox. The filter function lets you determine what should happen to each incoming email based on its content, its sender or even the time it was sent.
This way you could bundle emails from your boss into one folder, mark family emails as private and keep financial emails from banks in one place. By keeping content separate, you can choose when you’d best like to read through emails not relating to work etc.
emails, then it’s best to let them drop you off the list. Or you can use the next trick and let Outlook move your messages directly to specific folders.
6. Make sure your smartphone isn’t a connectivity culprit
The smartphone is our constant companion, one that is used as a social instrument, camera, and entertainment medium simultaneously. As useful as this mobility is, it can contribute to more stress regarding emails and checking them compulsively.
Should your cell phone be used for work as well as for personal use? Consider keeping your work emails on your laptop or tablet only, or creating a separate inbox on your phone for work-related emails. This will not only declutter your emails, but it will also allow you to have a space where you can relax and enjoy the more entertaining side of technology, without being bombarded by emails there as well. Just as it is important to create a ‘safe space’ for your emails away from distraction, it is important to do the same for your free time away from work.
Hopefully both your mind and inbox will feel a lot clearer and less stressed after these tips! It is not about shutting out stressors completely, but rather learning how to deal with them effectively. Through meditation you can learn to organise your thoughts and mind, and through small steps like these you can organise the smaller aspects of your everyday life too.
And suddenly, the emails, notifications, alert badges and constant flow of information won’t seem to drown you anymore, because you have found that ‘life vest’ to stay afloat.
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