Did you know that some studies say that U.S. employees spend up to 6.3 hours every single day checking email? That’s an email addiction. Although the advent of digital technology being within our pocket has in some ways made life easier, it’s also created a culture in which we think it’s reasonable to expect that someone reply to our emails instantly. And we’re all stuck in a vicious cycle where we feel it’s our job to respond immediately, too.
Why You Need to Break That Email Addiction
Welcome to a modern entrepreneur’s trap: trying to get out of the email spin cycle. You send eight messages answering your most important emails, but by the time you’re back in your inbox, two more people messaged you and the eight you just answered have already responded. It’s like you’ll never get ahead.
Consider how distracting and desperate it feels when you hear the ping on your phone or as you watch your open Gmail tab notifying you that messages are pouring in. If you’re working on a thought-intensive project, it can be stressful to feel like you can’t keep up.
If you’re constantly trying to keep up with what’s coming into your inbox, you’re losing your most focused opportunities to expand your business and your life. You’re so busy communicating with others that you’re being pulled out of your zone of genius and never actually getting ahead. You’re much more likely to get that book written or that huge client project finished if you spent 1-2 focused hours per day working on it instead of six hours on and off as you bounce from email to email. Seriously, you’ve got to break the addiction. I admit- I’m not perfect. But taking the steps below has helped me get a handle on email. Here are my best tips.
#1: Stop Acting Like You Have to Keep Up with This Chain
Learn from Tim Ferriss, who only checks email once per day. Some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs only check email a few times, and life moves on without their business failing because of it. Your most important job is to break the addiction for you and the people emailing you. So step one is to let go of all that guilt. Girl, your genius is not answering emails and being caught up in doing that is using all your creative brainpower on a task that probably doesn’t generate revenue. Release the guilt and move on- checking email 2-3 times a day is totally reasonable.
#2: Train Your Fellow Emailers
Start off slow by responding even thirty minutes later or an hour later to your inbox. Slowly but surely, people will get the hint. I trained my clients that they could not expect instant responses by using an autoresponder. My autoresponder in Gmail notified them that I had gotten their message but said something like:
“Thanks for reaching out. If you’re getting this message, I’m not currently checking email because I’m knee-deep in work on a client project. In order to offer this high level of focus to all my clients, I’ll get back to you when I check my email next within 24 hours.”
Worked like a charm. Suddenly people realized that if they really needed me, they’d set up a phone call or have to wait on a response.
#3: Remove the Addiction Temptation
Most of us wake up and turn to our emails instantly. Bad decision. Turn it off! I use the following tools to make email bearable:
- Inbox When Ready for Gmail: This tool hides my inbox automatically after thirty minutes of non-activity. The messages are there and I can click to view them if I need to, but in my corner tab if I accidentally leave it open I’m not seeing the number tick higher as I work.
- Boomerang: Keep track of when someone hasn’t responded by setting the message to come back to your inbox after a certain time period. If you read someone’s message but just can’t deal with it yet, boomerang it so it comes back later.
- Gmail Inbox Pause: Far and away my favorite, because I can turn it on when I need to or use a regular schedule for this tool to dump things in my inbox. It also has an autoresponder feature. It hides the folder of messages elsewhere in my email (don’t worry, they don’t disappear!) and then dumps them when I’m ready. This tool gives me a chance to get caught back up when I’m behind responding without feeling the pressure of all those people immediately responding to me.
Trust me, you can do this! The chances of your life or business falling apart because you took two hours to respond to an email are very, very low. Start off with baby steps and cut your inbox checking by half. Then halve it again. Then celebrate as you reclaim your life!