Don’t let email boss you around

Don’t let email boss you around

October 20, 2014 by Holly Rollins

brainimagejpgThere are some interesting facts and best practices about email usage that many don’t know, have forgotten or often ignore. The following facts and tips can help you put this communication system into perspective for a happier, healthier work and home life.


1. Email impacts your brain. According to Associate Director of the Center for Compassion & Altruism Research & Education, Stanford University Dr. Emma Seppala, email can influence your well-being, productivity and stress levels. @emmaseppala said that prior to the predominance of email, we only encountered a few emotional interactions at the workplace each day. With the deluge of email, there can be a variety of topics eliciting a range of emotions via hundreds of emails per day.

2. Email is a somewhat new intrusive, yet effective communication device. It’s really a 21st century communication tool-especially for work. Yes, in the mid-to-late nineties scientists and early adopters were using it. But compared to its importance and prevalence today, email took a backseat to the phone and personal interaction. It’s become that intruder you welcome over and over.

3. Physiologist Ivan Pavlov was right. We have a Pavlovian response to that ding or message flash that ‘you’ve got mail.’ We are conditioned, just like our proverbial dogs for the dinner bell, to drop everything and tackle the latest email message, even though it may not be on our to do list.

4. Don’t let email be other peoples’ to do list for you. While this isn’t always the case, if you constantly respond to email on other peoples’ terms, you most likely won’t address the priorities you (or your boss) has assigned to you for the day.

5. The written word does not capture body language and the true intent of some messages.

OK, now that I’ve told you the facts or bad news…

Here’s how to be the boss of your email

· Plan your day if you don’t already, first thing or the night before. Take a breath first thing in the morning and envision how you would like your schedule to unfold. I know many of you are saying “yeah, right I can’t control the fires that may come my way,” and I agree. But I’ve found if I have a list or schedule, my day is much more productive and I feel more confident about its outcome.

· Eat the frog first. In your schedule–if possible–tackle your least favorite or largest task or tasks first.

· Turn off the email notifications for at least 20 minutes at a time, if you aren’t in a major deadline-oriented industry.

· Setup email filters (a no brainer) for certain announcements or other priority B or C items.

· Unsubscribe to newsletters or notices you rarely read.

· Send personal emails to a personal free email account; then check once or twice a day.

· Flag as urgent your most important emails, then answer the rest later and/or create a smartmailbox titled ‘emails for 4-5pm.’

· Limit the use of the cc and reply all features.

· Adopt the five.sentences approach. The theory behind this brief web site: treat your emails like texts if you can.

· Pick up the phone or walk down the hall to communicate more. You may find out that Tom’s curt email was just written hastily when he was in a bad mood and the message didn’t have a negative intent at all.

· Apply a “no smartphone zone” during home or family mealtimes.

By practicing only a few of these tips you will be more in control of your email, resulting in more productive and peaceful days—at work and home.