Are emails making you anxious?

Originally published on Your Safety Mentor on March 8, 2015 By Trinette.
Are emails making you anxious
Practically everyone I know has an email address. I often have replies to my emails returned within seconds of pressing the “send” button. This may seem efficient, but have you ever considered how emails are affecting your lifestyle and psychological health?
It wasn’t until I read an article from Michael Hyatt titled “Declare Email Bankruptcy and Get a Fresh Start” that I realised that emails play a huge part in our lives and can make you feel overwhelmed and anxious. In fact, the constant “pinging”, reading and replying instantly to messages is affecting not only our psychological health but society in general.
Research has shown that the “interruption effect” of emails breaks the continuity of focusing on tasks, resulting in negative impacts to productivity and mental health. The issue is further amplified if you see the email entering your inbox and hear its arrival! With email now being available on smart phone technology, we can access emails at any time of the day in the week.
Not only are we interrupted at work, but our social lives are being interrupted by emails too!
In 2012, Anxiety UK conducted a survey on social media use and its effects on emotions. It found that 53% of participants said the social media sites and emails have changed their behaviour, while 51% said the change had been negative. It’s those people (who believe their behaviour has changed) who feel less confident when they compared their achievements against their friends. Interestingly, the survey also revealed two-thirds of participants reported difficulty relaxing and sleeping, while 55% said they felt worried and uncomfortable when they had issues with their technology. I spoke about fatigue at work recently in another article. It’s certainly a safety issue that we don’t want to deal with on top of mental health challenges.
Yes, for many of us emails are making us anxious. We have an inbox overflowing with unread messages and no matter how hard we try, they just don’t disappear. What do we do?
The article by Hyatt discussed if you had over five hundred unread email messages in your inbox then it was recommended you declare bankruptcy and start over – do the radical (and almost unthinkable) and move all emails to a separate folder and start again with a fresh inbox. This may seem like a dire reaction to too many emails, but Michael believes it works.
With that in mind, I gave it a go. In fact, I went one step further. First I cleared my inbox of all emails (I sorted the messages by name and read and replied to those that were from key clients, colleagues and my boss). I then made a commitment that I would only review and reply to my emails 3 times during the day.
Yes, 3 times. I closed my outlook and put my phone on silent so I couldn’t resist the urge to peek…
I’m renowned for checking emails that “ping” into my inbox during any hour of the day, so this was big. No. This was a HUGE feat for me!
Once my inbox was cleared, I only checked and replied to my emails around the following times – 10am, 1pm and 4pm. I gave myself 30 minutes to check and reply to messages. That was it. I wrote lists of people I needed to talk to (rather than sending another email) and then replied to those that needed the information in an email.
To my surprise, over the week I have received less spam (or non-urgent) emails. In fact, the messages that I’ve received are of the important variety and are worthy to reply with a response.
Not only have I been more focussed on the tasks at hand this week, but my productivity has boomed. In fact, my whole outlook on work is much more relaxed and I’m not so anxious or overwhelmed with the number of emails I have in my inbox.
In fact, I’ve even been so focussed that I’ve finished a dreaded report – early!
A small change in behaviour has made an enormous difference to my mental well-being. I can vouch that emails and social media is affecting our mental health and well-being. I became much calmer and felt control of my work activities. I was also able to better interact with the people around me without any interruptions, and was able to connect deeper with my family.
As people in business, we have the ability to influence the impact of emails and social media on ourselves and our workers health and well-being. We need to stop expecting immediate responses to emails, turn off the message alerts on our computers and phones, set dedicated times for checking emails and social media and ensure we are thoughtful about the content and timing of emails that we send to our colleagues.
Let’s encourage mindfulness with the use of technology. Mindfulness is INTENTION, ATTENTION and ACTION.
When all three factors are aligned, it becomes easier to do what matters to you. Emails and social media only interferes with this process because it makes you forget what matters to you (intention), distracts you (attention) and keeps you from taking action.
Start to make individual choices with intentions – encourage this with your workers. For example, if you check your emails right when you get out of bed, or every time it “pings”, ask yourself whether this action aligns with your intentions. Pick small choices and see them in relation to how you’d like to see yourself with technology.
You may like to try the email bankruptcy action I tried this week. If that sounds a little scary, then set yourself a small goal such as replying to emails thoughtfully or at only certain times during the day. Observe how this makes you feel and encourage others to do the same.
Check out the following video titled “How to Save the World from Email”. It has some great hints and tips that you may like to share with your workers about writing emails.
The world is moving fast in the space of technology. Sure, we can’t solve all problems in this space, but we can help to influence our own relationship with technology and the way in which we interact with it in the workplace.
Believe me, you’ll be much better for it. Your mind will be clearer, you’ll be less stressed and less overwhelmed.
What have you done in your workplace to be mindful about the use of social media, emails and technology? Let us know in the comments section below.
Keep healthy and safe,
Your Safety Mentor