We’ve all had that feeling on a Monday morning – you get to your office, or you’re checking your work phone in the morning before you leave; and all the sudden you notice you have 500+ emails! Ok, maybe for most of us it’s not that high, but you still get anxious and stressed, thinking to yourself, “Oh great, here’s Monday again. How am I going to get through all these emails?” Even if you know you don’t need to reply to all of them, sometimes just seeing that high number of unread emails is enough to spike your stress levels. For some, it’s the interruption of an email while working on something important. As Brigid Schulte from the Washington Post said,
“Every time I thought of my inbox, I’d start to hyperventilate. I’d tried tackling it before: one night a few months ago, I was determined to stay at my desk until I’d powered through all the unread emails. At dawn, I was nowhere near the end. Before long, the inbox was just as crammed as it had been before I lost an entire night’s sleep.”
So what we can do to tackle our ever growing inbox numbers, and work more effectively?
Filter: Create a system that works for you. Whether it’s applying filters to your incoming emails that automatically categorises them into specific folders, or taking advantage of deadline reminders and flags. My personal system includes filters based on the type of email I’m getting (e.g. one folder for client emails, one folder for work meeting emails, another folder for blogging, etc.) Obviously, each of these have different priority levels, so I can check the high priority folders before moving onto the lower priority ones. I also have filters set up to automatically delete emails from unwanted senders or about unwanted topics. Learn how to use filters in Gmail.
Schedule: Fit checking and responding to emails into your schedule instead of stopping everything you’re doing just to check a notification. It takes 23 minutes and 15 seconds for you to get back on task after an interruption while at work. I personally space out thirty minute blocks to check my email, but a different time frame may work better for you. Worried about missing an urgent email? Add a message to your signature stating you will reply to emails within 24-hours on a business day, and that if someone needs to get a hold of you sooner, to call or text you. If you have your work email connected to your mobile phone, turn on your “Do not disturb” function on night time hours, so you aren’t tempted to check your email.
Be Flexible: As you test out your new system, you may find that some things work better than others. Maybe for you thirty minute blocks for email checking is too long, or maybe you find a different way to filter your emails. Additionally, keep in mind that the more you use your new system, the more it will become a habit. So try to stick with it as much as possible.
Want to learn more, read Brigid’s article here.
Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.