It’s no secret that many Americans are addicted to their smartphones. Some start the morning by checking their email before they even get out of bed, then check it dozens of times throughout the day. This provides a distraction from boredom but also makes it harder to focus on things that are truly important.
Why Constantly Checking Email Is a Problem
The human brain switches back and forth between focusing on a task and daydreaming or letting thoughts wander. Switching back and forth too quickly—for example, by frequently checking email—can make it difficult for the brain to commit to either state and can cause productivity to suffer.
Ways to Cut Back on Checking Your Email
People often check their email because they’re bored or have some downtime. If you do that, the practice may become a habit that keeps you from accomplishing things that are actually important. Instead of checking your email when you’re bored or have a little free time, do something constructive, such as exercising, cleaning or planning a fun activity with family or friends.
If you receive notifications every time you get an email, it can be tempting to check it immediately in case the message is important. Turn off notifications so you don’t feel the urge to check your email as much. Tell people to call or text you if a matter is urgent and to email you if the subject is less important.
Sometimes people check their email frequently because they need to be reminded of things they have to do or they need to find an important document. The problem is that if you open your inbox to look for one item, it’s easy to get distracted by other emails and waste time. Set up a calendar or to-do list and store important documents with file storage software so you won’t get distracted while looking for something important.
If possible, designate specific times each day to check and respond to emails. Schedule that like any other task so you can focus on other responsibilities at other times. When it’s time to check your email, focus only on that.
Use filters to sort emails into categories or to rank them in terms of importance. That will make it easier for you to cut through the clutter and quickly work your way through your inbox.
Break Your Email Addiction
Many Americans don’t realize how much time they spend checking their email on a typical day or how much that interferes with their productivity. Checking email frequently has become such an ingrained habit for many that it’s hard to imagine not doing so. To break any habit, the first step is to make a conscious decision to do things differently.