Why Not Compulsively Checking Emails is so Hard

I’ve started a new routine of not checking emails as they come in. I used to pride myself on responding to emails with lightning speed. I’d often think about how impressed everyone was that I responded so quickly to their emails. After learning more and more about efficiency I realized that this is not the best way of finishing tasks and in reality I’m not serving the company or the customer better by responding to emails as they come in.

Most have us realize that responding to emails immediately is not the most efficient method of responding to emails, but find it so difficult to only check our emails 1-2 times a day?

I started attempting to check my emails at 11:30 AM and 4:30 PM. This ensures that I can respond to the bulk of emails all at one time, which not only saves on distractions in the morning and afternoon, but it also helps me respond to emails in batches which is a more efficient method of responding to emails. I got this idea from the 4-Hour Workweek by Timothy Ferriss. As I started doing this I had a few feelings that made it very difficult for me to not compulsively check my emails. Here are a few reasons that it is difficult to not check emails compulsively. I’m outlining these so you can combat these feelings and recognize that the feeling is normal and that it will go away eventually (BTW these same ideas can be applied to not looking at your phone repeatedly looking for distractions).

  1. It saves me from having to plan my day – I’ve noticed that when I shot down my email it forces me to think about priorities. This takes a little more thought than simply jumping to the next email that comes through in my inbox. The nice thing about this is that if you have been intentional in writing down 3-5 tasks that you need to get done, this is a great feeling. If you don’t have a list of tasks, now is the time to make one. That being said I recommend having a list of 3-5 tasks written out before coming to work.
  2. The constant feeling of missing something – I have that constant feeling of missing something when I don’t regularly check my emails. Truthfully, I am missing something. I’m missing the things someone else wants to schedule for my day in no particular priority order or order of importance. I think it’s likely better to use reason and logic to define the most important tasks and get those items done first, but some reason that nagging feeling is hard to overcome.
  3. It makes us feel good to get emails – Sometimes, we get good emails. Most of mine are horrible, but for some reason I still really like checking them. Maybe I’m a masochist or something. Truthfully though, there is science behind emails being addictive and if you try to cut emails out from most of your day, you won’t need a scientist to tell you that.
  4. Habit – Once we do something repeatedly it becomes muscle memory.  Most of us have a website that we typed in our browser so much that we don’t even think before we start typing it. This is a simple habit and it really takes a few days of intense focus to break the habit. The hardest part for me is that when I think of an email I need to send, I’ll turn my email back on only to see a rush of new emails coming in. I have yet to figure out if I should compose the emails in offline mode or try to force myself to ignore the rush of emails that are coming in. If you have any recommendations, please let me know.
  5. The coworker that needs instant feedback – This is the coworker that sends and email and then runs over to your office to make sure you received it. It’s as if they think your job is to read emails as quickly as you can as they come through. I know email is a critical part of most jobs in 2018, but it’s not what we get paid to do. It’s simply a tool we use. The goal is to use the tools given to us, not let the tools use you. A perfect example of this is social media. I use social media to spread tips on how to be more productive, however this can quickly become a time consuming loss of productivity if I’m not careful.  Anyway, back to my original thought. If a co-worker demands that you read their email instantaneously, you may have to come off as slightly rude and ask them if it’s an emergency or if it’s ok to respond to the email when you have a moment. Over time, I’m sure this situation will improve as people realize I’m batching their emails.

These are a few reasons why I’ve found it difficult to batch read/respond to emails. I hope reading this article helps you prevent falling victim to these difficulties and that you end up improving your productivity as a result.

If you’ve tried to do this please let me know how it worked for your and if you have any tips on how to more effectively manage tasks such as emails. Thanks again for reading, and as always, remember to be great today!

Robert Krickeberg



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