I have two quirks when it comes to email. The first is when someone emails me (without having called or stopped by my office) and asks me to call them. Yes, thank you for proving how important you are. The second, of which I have no one but myself to blame, is an incessant need to be caught up on unread email.
To see a bold number in parentheses next to “Inbox” is like someone chewing Doritos with their mouth wide open within smacking distance from you. It drives me bonkers. At my last company, a senior executive used to send me an email and time my response for fun. I believe 2 minutes 20 seconds was his longest wait time. Yes, I have a problem.
FOMO? Maybe. A constant concern that I’m needed urgently? Likely in my own head. A detriment to whatever I am working on at the time? DEFINITELY! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been distracted during the day due to an incoming email. It inevitably leads to doing a whole lot of little things, with my to-do list for the day still outstanding. Not exactly helping me check off that productivity box each day.
What’s worse? As I eluded to in the story above about the little joke this co-worker liked to play on me, I’ve set a precedent. 3 am email replies? Check. Working through the night before a holiday on a perceived media concern? Whelp, 2017 Thanksgiving is a blur. It’s unhealthy, not motivating, unappreciated…and, now, expected.
One of the hats I wear as a marketing executive is to handle the communications for my company, which includes media relations. The turnaround time is usually immediate, so there is part of me that will always need to be connected. But I’m a mom, wife, daughter and friend…FIRST. I need to make sure those roles have their uninterrupted time and place as well. And everyone has my cell phone number — if it’s an emergency, work will call.
In the end, I recognized I had a problem and did some digging as to how I could curb my little obsession. If you’re like me and looking for a resolution, you may find some inspiration in this Daily Muse article. One of their tips is to turn off push notifications on your phone, which I will admit recently worked for me while I was on vacation. I would only check email a few times a day, which was easier to manage when they weren’t popping up on my lock screen or being pushed to my iWatch. Out of sight, out of mind. The trick is to applying it to daily life whenever possible…not just special occasions.
There are other tools I’ve been using to help increase productivity and avoid distraction — like the Panda Planner I discovered this year — but I’m taking this new mindset one day at a time. Hopefully, one day soon, I will no longer be held hostage to the unread emails in my inbox. Until then, I’ll see you on email.