How many ways can you check your email? I would be willing to bet that you do check them, and frequently, as well.
Email is my default activity. I seem to be always in it…and it feels productive, but it really is a false productivity.
How Often Do You Check Email?
How many times a day do you check your email? Do you sneak a peek while waiting in line? Is it the first thing you do at work? Do you check before you even get out of bed? Do you check right before going to sleep?
Chances are you check your email far too often. I know I do. I check it as part of my morning routine…mainly because I send an email as part of that routine, and as long as I’m in the email program, I might as well clear the inbox, right? I check it first thing at work, and it stays open the entire day. I check personal email every half hour unless I make sure the tab is closed.
And then there is the filler…I check email while making dinner; before bed (because I want to go to sleep with a clean inbox); when I’m bored or procrastinating or tired…
Most of us check email all the time. And it’s not good.
The False Productivity of Email
Email is someone else’s task list thrust at you for action.
Email expects you to do something: read, respond, file, delegate.
And if we spend a lot of time in email, we do get a lot of these things done.
But it’s not productive, because productivity is about doing the right tasks. Doing someone else’s bidding doesn’t fall into the category of doing the things that will move your goals and projects forward.
But email feels so productive. The allure of answering and getting to empty beckons. But constantly being in your inbox so you can quickly get rid of things is like putting things on your task list just so you have the ability to cross them off.
At the end of the day, you will have done a lot of things, but little of it will have mattered.
Is this how you really want to spend the majority of your days? Doing little things that don’t matter?
Reining in Email Checking
Luckily, it just takes a bit of focus and some grit to break the email habit. Here are some ways you can help yourself break it:
Turn off notifications
Most desktop programs have some sort of indication that you have new email. Whether it is a message box, a pop up, or even an icon, turning these off can keep you from automatically checking when you know there is a new email waiting.
Close the program/tab
Even better than turning off notifications, you can close the program or tab. If the program isn’t open, you can’t just idly check it…it becomes a conscious decision to open up the program.
Set times for email
Setting times to check email is a great way to make sure that you aren’t doing someone else’s task list. I have had clients where I check my email at 10 and 2, checking personal email on my lunch hour and when I get home. Setting the times gives you a safety net if you are anxious about shutting down your email. Trust me…you won’t forget to check it.
Remove notifications from your phone
The default settings for most phone email programs is to notify you when email arrives. Not only does that distract you, but it can wear down your battery faster. Instead, set your email to check when you enter the program, and not show any indication if you have new email.
Delete Email From Your Phone
This one is not for the faint of heart…but if you really want to get away from checking email on your phone, remove the program or settings that make it possible.
I remember a time when you couldn’t check email from a phone, and we seemed to all survive. 🙂
Why You Shouldn’t Check Your Email First or Last Thing
One last thing…I want to talk about why you shouldn’t check email first thing in the morning and last at night, as well as first thing at work, and right before you leave.
Remember when I said that email was doing someone else’s tasks? (if you don’t, go back and read above). If you check your email first thing (either home or work) you will start your day doing someone else’s priorities. This is not a good way to hit the productive ground running.
And even worse, if you check your email last thing (either work or home) you may stay later to take care of it. Is doing someone else’s tasks really worth missing out on your own time?
Email is insidious, and has infiltrated every corner of our lives. But you can blast through the false productivity of email and take control.