I still remember the day my dad told me about email. He had just gotten an email account and he said I should get one. It will make my life easier, he said, because you can answer them right away. Oh, those days of innocence!
Little did we know, we’d both have inboxes with hundreds of unopened emails in them one day. Thankfully, those days are gone for me. I regularly answer my emails now and if I have even 20 unanswered emails in my box, I feel stressed out.
But the lure of emails has not left me. For some reason they have a tendency to call my name, saying, “Barb, come look at us and we’ll make your life exciting!” As a writer it’s a constant temptation to look at them because it’s such an easy way to procrastinate.
I’ve tried different things: Saying I can only look at them 3 or 4 times a day, saying I can look at them only if I answer them right away, and asking friends to hold me accountable to how often I look at them. But I still haven’t gotten it under control.
I know God could change me through the renewing of the mind, and I’ve actually gone to Him for help with that, but not often enough and long enough to see lasting results. I’m afraid this has been one of those on-again-off-again renewing of the mind projects for me.
If this is something you’d like to work on, here are 7 lies that make us check emails too often and the truth that will change our behavior (if we drill it into our head often enough!)
7 Lies That Make Us Check Emails Too Often
- It will be fun to check my emails. This is only true if we get a fun email. If we don’t get any fun e-mails, or if we instead receive an email that brings up a problem we have to deal with, then emails are anything but fun. The truth here is that it may be fun to check our emails.
- I probably have some fun emails. This may be true if we only answer our emails every couple of days. But if we answer them 10 times a day, it’s probably not true. After all, how many fun emails do we get in a day? We’ll increase our chances of getting a fun email if we check them less often!
- I need to check them in case someone needs me. In an instant society, it’s easy to feel like we have to be always-available for people. This isn’t the case, though. Most people don’t expect us to answer our emails right away. If they need us right away, they’ll call. If they don’t know us well enough to have our phone number, they probably don’t need us right away.
- I’ll just check for a minute. Okay, let’s all be honest here. How often does it only take a minute? I use the Pomodoro method for writing and I’ll sometimes use the 5 minute breaks to answer emails. When I do, I often find myself going past my break time because I just want to “finish up this email really quick!”
- This won’t slow me down. If you’re a writer, blogger, or podcaster, checking emails can slow you down because so often those emails a) bring up jobs you need to do or b) bring up things everyone else is doing which makes you feel like you need to do them. Even if the email checking itself only lasts a minute, the thinking about it can last for hours. When I’m really on the ball (which isn’t often), I deal with this in three ways: 1) Schedule any to-dos the email brings up, 2) answer them right away, or 3) renew my mind if the email stresses me out in some way.
- I will be missing out if I don’t check them now. Here’s the truth: we may miss out on excitement, but if we check them all the time, we’ll miss out on peace and work. What would you rather have – days filled with peace and accomplishment or days filled with too much email checking, which leads to disappointment, stress, and obsession, all for a measly possible 30 seconds of excitement? I think I’d take the peace and work!
- I’ll answer this email later. At first glance this doesn’t seem like a lie that leads to obsessive email checking, but it is. Here’s why: When we say we’ll answer our emails later, we usually end up with way too many emails in our inbox. When we have too many emails in the box, we worry that we’re missing something so we have to check them to see. The sooner we answer them (or delete them or schedule an email for them), the sooner they’re out of our mind, and the sooner we’ll be able to relax.
Anyone have advice?
How about you? Do you have any advice or tips for me? Any success stories? Any tales of e-mail woe? Any lies I missed? Any practical strategies for breaking the habit? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. I’m also guest posting today on Kathy Gossen’s blog, Cornerstone Confessions. Here’s the link if you want to check it out: How to Raise Kids Who Don’t Struggle with Weight.