Combating Excessive Email Use
If you have multiple email addresses, obsessively check your messages at all hours, and feel guilty if you unplug, you may be a workaholic. You’re also putting yourself at increased risk for elevated stress levels. There is a way to get off this vicious treadmill by incorporating healthier behaviors.
A 2016 report by the Radicati Group found there are 2.5 billion email users worldwide, and adults spend an average of over an hour each day on emails. In 2012, there were 144.8 billion worldwide emails daily, and that’s expected to ratchet up to 192.2 billion daily emails in 2016. The bulk of email is corporate, with 89 billion daily emails in 2012, increasing to 143.8 billion per day in 2016. Instant messaging (IM), social networking and mobile email are other drivers of excessive email use.
This research suggests that it’s not just the volume of emails that causes stress, it’s also the well-intentioned habits people have and their need to feel in control that often backfires.
Dr. Mark Griffiths, Nottingham Trent University professor of behavioral addiction, international gaming research unit, shares his views on what can be done to curb excessive email use.
- Turn off automatic email notification.
You can’t be inundated all day long if you take the simple precaution of turning off automatic email notification. Why be distracted by the constant beep, ring-tone, pop-up window, etc. of incoming emails when you can check your messages at a time you prefer to view them and take action on them?
“Emails are a double-edge sword in that they are clearly a useful communication tool but can be a source of stress,” Dr. Griffiths confirms.
- Set limits for retrieving messages.
You should be the one in control of when you access your email messages, according to Griffith. If you limit their retrieval to only a few times each day, such as first thing in the morning, at lunchtime, and possibly just before you leave work, you’ll be much less stressed. “You’ll spend less time both reading and responding to each email than if you had read them when they individually came in.”
- Deactivate instant messaging.
While it sounds good in theory, in practice, having instant messaging always on is an unnecessary stress producer. Turn off IM and immediately benefit. “There is a tendency to look at emails straight away if the instant messaging system is turned on,” says Griffiths, who adds that the only time this is helpful is if you are expecting a message.