Can’t Get Away From Your Email?

Individual Counseling Insights brought to you by California Psychotherapeutic Resources, Inc.

Do you have a love-hate relationship with email? Is the “love” part of the relationship sadly diminishing? Take heart — you’re not alone. Inboxes overflowing with half-read emails can stress anybody out. The problem is, most of us still need email. Deciding not to use email at work is not a choice we get to make. Creating a personal email account helps keep you organized, but even your personal email inbox is probably loaded with news and sales pitches you don’t care about along with, ugh, spam.

A woman on a boat working on her computer

Part of the problem is that our employers or clients have come to expect us to always be available, what’s come to be known as the “always-on culture.” Writing for WebsitePlanet, Tom Read says “Almost half of U.S. workers are guilty of pandering to pressures to ‘stay connected.’ This is extremely damaging, to say the least… Constantly checking email after hours is stressful because it means you can never take your mind off work. Your favorite movie or the valuable time you promised to spend with your partner is rudely cut short when the boss bombards your inbox at 8pm, expecting a response… Work-related stress and anxiety are not sustainable. These bring about negative thought patterns, poor sleep quality, and even depression — which is why checking email outside of work is often counterproductive.”

The pandemic and the push to work from home has only made matters worse. “One study found that 44.4% of employees working from home have experienced a decline in their mental health,” Read says. “Checking email is a big stressor for remote workers. For a start, employees must read and send more emails from home, making the workday longer. According to a study of 3.1 million workers throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle East, ‘significant and durable increases’ in internally sent emails have increased the average workday by 48.5 minutes since the pandemic began.”

If all this resonates with you, then it’s time to take action. Read offers some tips to reduce the stress level of working with email.

“Learn to Switch Off.” Set a time after which you simply do not check your email — and adhere to it. Make sure that people who might need to contact you in an emergency have your phone number and let them know they’re free to call if necessary. Few people will have nerve to call on trivial matters.

“Pick Up a Non-Digital Hobby.” If you play videogames on your computer, you’re only a click away from that email program. Get away from the temptation! At least until you’ve solidly gotten in the habit of not checking your inbox.

“Use a Vacation Auto-Responder.” Getting an automatic message letting you know someone is out of the office for X period of time is common enough that no one will be shocked when they get your message. So take advantage of an auto-responder and give yourself a real vacation. If for some reason you simply must check your email, set aside a short time in the morning, check it — and then do not respond.

“Use Technology to Time Block Your Day.” There is, as they say, an app for everything. That definitely includes apps for time blocking. The concept is simple: you set aside specific blocks of time for specific tasks. Use an app to block out time for reading and responding to email as well as for your ordinary work flow.

“Practice Email Etiquette.” This starts with adhering to your own rules. Sending emails only during normal business hours. Don’t CC people if you don’t need to. Avoid Reply All when you can. In terms of content, write clear subject lines and organize your paragraphs so they can be easily read — and consider using bullet point lists to help.

See Read’s complete article here, which also includes tips on using folders to store your emails, deleting emails after a set date and Unsubscribing from lists.