I’m addicted to constantly checking my email. I want to stop, but I can’t. I think it’s mostly driven by fear. I’m afraid of missing something important. I’m afraid of missing out on an opportunity. I justify my condition by telling myself that I am known for being responsive and available. Responsiveness is one of my differentiators. Being available and responsive goes a long way in today’s business world. My clients and colleagues know that I’m always available and they appreciate it. However, I take it way too far.
Constantly checking email is killing my productivity, increasing my stress level, and preventing me from ever having true downtime. I can’t live in the moment because I’m constantly thinking about what I’m potentially missing. A major side effect is that I can’t focus on one activity for more than a few minutes without being distracted.
I have a feeling that I’m not the only one out there with this same problem. Just take a moment and look around. You’ll see that everyone has their head down checking email, looking at social media, browsing the web, or texting. Most of us can’t take a 10 minute drive without checking our phone every time we come to a stop. Next time you eat out, look at how many people are looking at their phone instead of interacting with the person in front of them.
I’ve tried to stop constantly checking email in the past, especially after re-reading The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss (it’s a great book that I highly recommend you read). It would work for a few days, but I always fell back into my old habits. What’s different this time?
- I predecided that I’m going to change my behavior and live with the consequences. If I miss out on something, then so be it. To me, the consequences of the path I’m on now are far worse than potentially missing out on a business opportunity because I responded within 8 hours instead of 8 minutes. I’d rather enjoy my life and the people that matter most than constantly worrying about what’s going on in the world of email or social media.
- I started using a tool called Batched Inbox. I highly recommend it. It’s free and easy to setup. It prevents me from seeing new emails in real-time by batching my emails to me 3 times a day (the intervals and times are configurable). Since I don’t see new emails in real time (or the notifications), I can focus on getting real work done and dedicating my attention to more important things. I can see old emails and send new emails without the distraction of emails that are coming in. I’ve tried solutions in the past that simply hide email notifications and alerts. Yes, I can sneak a peek at the emails when I’m at my computer (they are stored in a hidden folder and are moved to the Inbox via the schedule you setup), but I predecided I wanted to change so I’m not very tempted. It’s just a tool, but seems to work well for me. I’m really enjoying all the extra time I have now to focus on getting meaningful work done so I’m motivated not to cheat the system.
- I wrote this post to help others with the same problem and provide another level of accountability for me as well. Next time you see me, ask how I’m doing. Hopefully, I’ll still only be checking email 3 times per day.
I haven’t told anyone, until now, that I’m not checking email all of the time. Guess what? Nobody has noticed yet. So far, I feel like everyone still thinks I’m very responsive and easily accessible. I’m still very responsive as I’m able to reply to all emails within a 4 to 12 hour period (which is more than acceptable). I’m also training people how to interact with me in a way that works best for me. They’ll learn that they can’t email me for urgent issues. Instead, they will call or text when they need something urgent. I’m finding that most things aren’t really urgent and I provide better responses when I’m not constantly trying to keep my inbox clean.