Stressing over checking your email — or texts, which have become even more common — has only increased since I first wrote about how to deal with email stress five years ago. We have become an always-on society, with the expectation for many employees to be available 24/7… Even when most people’s jobs aren’t so important that a person’s life will hang in the balance if we were unavailable.
It’s a shame, really. Technology was supposed to help us have more leisure time and free us up to be able to spend more of our lives with things that really matter — like family, friends, and experiences. Instead, it’s tying us down to our devices in ways their inventors never imagined.
So if you’re feeling stressed out being always connected to your device to check email and texts, here are three more tips for helping to cope.
Tips for Dealing with Texting and Email Stress
In addition to the tips we covered five years ago — filter for important stuff, chunk response times, and stop checking every minute — here are some additional simple yet effective ways to relieve texting and email stress.
1. Use the 3-second rule.
A common problem with email (more so than texts) is that we spend too much time deciding what to do about a specific email. “Hmmm, he raised a lot of good points in his email, so should I respond to them now, wait to talk to him in person about it, or…?”
Force yourself to spend no more than 3 seconds deciding what to do with an email — respond to it with a quick email, delete it, archive it, or “to-do” it (schedule it for a phone call or meeting, reply later for a longer response, or take some other followup action). While it might be difficult to adhere to this rule at first, you may be surprised how easy it is to get into the habit of limiting your decision-making time. It’s a quick and easy way to plow through your inbox with every email taken care of in no time.
2. Turn off notifications for all but the most important things.
This may seem like hobbling a tool meant to improve one’s communication flow and productivity, but today’s mobile phones and computer desktops are overflowing with multitasking distractions that actually make you work less efficiently and less effectively.
As I’ve noted previously, most people are actually quite horrible multitaskers — but ironically most people think they multi-task pretty well. This formula makes for a poor outcome. We all think we’re getting a lot done when we multitask, but we’re actually getting less done than if we had simply focused on one task at a time.
Notifications are only useful when they mean something special — otherwise they just become background white noise in your daily routine. So those little pop-ups telling you have new email just act as expensive distractions to your brain’s limited ability to process incoming stimuli. Every notice you quickly view has a silent cost.
Shut them down except for the most important of notices (like from your boss or an email subject line that says “Urgent” or “Emergency”). You can let your colleagues and family know that you’re changing your routine, too, so nobody gets miffed that you’re only replying to emails now four or five times a day (instead of instantaneously every minute of every day).
Turning off your notifications also will help you with scheduling your email responses to just a few times a day (instead of whenever something new comes in). This is important to helping you feel like you’re in charge of your email — not at its mercy.
3. Unsubscribe. From everything.
Companies love to “keep us informed” about every little new thing they’re doing. The truth is, most of those newsletter and product updates we signed up for are never read by nearly 90 percent of the people they’re sent to. Companies know this, but they keep sending them anyway to people who never open these emails. You’re one of them.
So why not stop the problem at its root? Go through your email box and be reckless about unsubscribing from every newsletter or company email you get that’s automatically sent to you. You’re allowed to keep one or two if they mean a lot to you and that you actually read. But the rest just contribute to your feelings of being overwhelmed and stressed out by the sheer quantity of email you receive.
Do you have any email stress tips?
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Read my original article on this topic: Dealing with Email Stress