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Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done

Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done

by Jocelyn K. Glei

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984 reads

The Email Story

Researchers have established a clear link between spending time on email and stress: the more frequently we check our email, the more frazzled we feel.

Meanwhile, office workers check their inboxes 74 times a day and spend 28% of their workday on reading and responding to email.

Why Email is So Addictive

  • When you don’t know if you’ll get a big reward, small reward, or no reward at all - that's when you are most likely to repeat a behavior and slip into addiction.
  • Email is a near-perfect random reward system.
  • Random rewards make us want to check email repeatedly in the hope of...

Why Inbox Zero is Irresistible

  • Inbox Zero is a state when you have answered or filed all your email and there are no new unread messages.
  • Chipping away at our inbox gives us a sense of satisfaction precisely because the act includes such clear progress indicators.
  • Progress is one of the most motivating for...

Why Email is Stressful

Our negativity bias toward email means that every email we send or read is interpreted more negatively than it was intended, which is one of the reasons why more email tends to equate more stress.

The lack of social cues in email also forces us to spend more time trying to interpret what th...

  • The rule of reciprocity states that if someone does a favor for you, you want to return the favor even if the favor wasn’t something you wanted.
  • Numerous experiments have shown that humans tend to adhere to the rule of reciprocity in social interactions.
  • When emails start pil...

  • Set aside 30-60 minutes in the late morning and a similar amount of time in the mid- to late afternoon for checking email.
  • Turn off notifications and don't check email throughout the day.
  • Just having your email program open in the background of your computer ...

The Switching Costs

  • Every time you stop doing a task you are working on to check your email, you incur what researchers call a “switching cost”.
  • It typically takes at least 25 minutes to get properly back into the task after you’ve interrupted yourself.
  • The more frequently you check email, t...

Closing The Email Loop

The best way to get less email is to send less email.

A great way to do this is to proactively close the conversation as soon as it’s convenient. This means always striving to respond to emails completely, cutting off the possibility of a long back-and-forth.

Do a bi...

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