10th September 2019

Too Many Emails? The Surprising Reasons You’re Hooked on Email And What to Do About It

Do you find yourself constantly checking your email? Then wishing or praying that you could just stop? If you’re like most of us, you’ve tried to break the email addiction. However, within a few days, sometimes just a few hours, you’re hooked again and back to compulsively checking your email. Managing your email feels elusive, at best, and more often completely hopeless.

Why is it so hard to manage your email at work?

When you receive an email, you feel needed and important. With each new email you receive, how you’re spending your time is validated. It’s human nature to crave this type of validation and affirmation. Once you experience it, it’s hard to stop doing the thing that causes it. So, you check your inbox… incessantly.

We love small, easy wins. Email is the epitome of that. According to a study conducted by Professor Teresa Amibile from the Harvard Business School, we love making progress. Have you ever wondered why we love making to-do lists? It’s because we love checking items off that list. When we feel like we’re making progress, we get motivated. It’s what moves us forward to reach a specific goal.

All of impacts how you manage your emails. Managing your inbox makes you feel accomplished. Every time you respond to a message or get a response back from someone else, you’re moving one step forward. You feel good, because it proves that you’ve gotten something done.

How to free yourself from your inbox

It’s hard to break the cycle of email addiction. However, it is possible! Here are four ways you can break free from your email.

Set Goals for Checking Your Email

Telling yourself you’re going to check your emails less often doesn’t work. You need to have a specific plan. Set goals for how often you’re going to check your email. Limit the number to just a few times a day. Make a schedule that disperses the times throughout the day and stick to it. Don’t let yourself check your inbox outside of your schedule.

After you’ve set your goals, find someone to help keep you accountable. Share your email goals with a coworker or friend. Ask them to check in to see how you’re doing as you break free from your email addiction. You could even work on this together and keep each other accountable. You’ll be more likely to meet your goals if someone else knows about them and is there to support you and help keep you on track.

Use Rules, Filters, and/or Labels To Manage Your Email

Technology settings are your friend! Use them to simplify your life. By using rules in Outlook and filters and labels in Gmail, you’ll spend less time reading and responding to emails. Your emails will automatically be sorted, prioritized, and replied to. Think about how much time you’ll save!

If you get dozens or even hundreds of emails every day, opening your inbox can be overwhelming. Rules, filters, and labels organizes your inbox so you won’t feel so overwhelmed when you’re sorting through your emails. When you have leveraged your technology tools and set up rules, filters and/or labels, visits to your inbox are faster and more efficient.

Turn Off New Email Notification Alerts

You won’t be able to stick to your email goals if you’re constantly being notified of every new email you receive. The incessant buzzing and pinging will give you a headache and distract you from the real work you need to do. With each new email notification, you’ll be tempted to check your email more frequently than is necessary.

The solution? Turn off all new email notification alerts. And, turn them off on all of your devices. If they are out of sight and silent, they’ll be out of mind. Without the annoying new email notification alerts going off unexpectedly, you’ll feel free of your inbox. Your result – fewer distractions and increased productivity.

Keep Track of Completed Tasks To Create A Sense of Accomplishment

You feel a sense of accomplishment when you check your inbox.  If you’re not checking it as frequently, you’ll lose that feeling of accomplishment. So, you’ll need something to replace that rewarding feeling of validation and affirmation. And, your best option is to choose a very tangible way to feel validated, something you can see and touch, like your to-do list.

Create a to-do list and mark off all of the items as you complete them. Your goal is to keep track of your accomplishments throughout the day. Focus on that positive feeling of checking things off the list, moving projects forward and getting work done. This motivates you more than constantly checking your inbox ever did or will. Why? Because you are working on your priorities and accomplishing your goals.

Your inbox is nothing more than everyone else’s to-do list for you. As you shift your focus to your to-do list, you’ll realize that your achievements more important than sending and receiving emails. When you look at your list throughout the day seeing the things you’ve accomplished, two things will happen.

  1. You’ll be motivated to stay focused on your to-do list.
  2. You’ll keep making the choice to not constantly check your inbox.

The Surprising Reasons You’re Hooked on Email And What to Do About It

Breaking the email addiction is hard. When you receive an email you feel needed, valued and important. And, when you read and respond to an email you feel a sense of accomplishment.

However, your email does not have to control you. You can break free of its compulsive grip!

  • Set a goal for the number of times you will check your email each day
  • Find someone to support you and hold you accountable to your goal
  • Use rules, filters and/or labels to sort, prioritize and organize your email
  • Turn of the new email notification alerts on all of your devices
  • Create a to-do list and mark off items as you complete them
  • Focus on your priorities and accomplishing your goals

Ready to take back control of your inbox? Enroll in our on-line Tame Your Inbox program.

Or, if you want to help not only yourself, but help your entire team or organization tame their inbox, explore our email management training programs.

For more information on how to manage your email when you have too many emails, read more of our relevant blog articles: