Reduce Email Overload by Curving Your Addiction

Reduce Email Overload by Curving Your Addiction

As promised in last week’s post on How to Use Work Boundaries to Find Time for You, this week, we are going to start looking at email overload or as I like to call it email hell.

If your prime value to the organisation is to read or respond to an email as quickly as possible then please surf away.

If your prime value to the organisation is to spend as much time as you can helping your team(s) deliver value to your clients, then this post is for you.

Global EMail Overload Problem

Email overload is something my global colleagues tell me they suffer with every day. Most of them having to read and respond to emails outside of their normal working hours.

The end goal I am going to set you is to spend a maximum of 60 minutes on your email a day.

Nick, you have lost the plot. That’s just impossible right now.

I know it is, I have been there and recognise this is a tall ask. But work with me here.

I am going to break this down into smaller goals for you each week. Goals that will allow to gradually make progress towards this end goal.

This week’s goal is for you to only read and respond to your emails twice a day.

That sounds challenging, but not impossible right?

Well, let’s begin.

But What’s the Boss Going to Say?

Have your clients or boss ever said to you – “Great job keeping on top of your emails”

Of course, they haven’t.

So, If the organisation, your clients and your boss don’t value the outcome of emails, why do you spend so much time reading and responding to them?

Maybe You’re Addicted

Do you find it is impossible to ignore your email if you are notified that messages have arrived in your inbox?

I know I do, I also want to respond to them straight away and feel I need a response ASAP.

According to Psychology Today, this is caused by dopamine being released by the brain. When you hear or see an email arrive, dopamine starts you seeking, you get rewarded for your seeking and then you want to seek some more. This is why it becomes harder and harder to stop looking at your email.

Simon Sinek also refers to this in a thought-provoking video called Why Leaders Eat Last.

Time for Action

Do you think you are addicted?

You do, then it’s time for you to act.

I want you open your calendar and block out two slots each day for email. One in the morning and one in the afternoon. At this point, set these slots to a duration you feel comfortable with.

If your calendar is busy, you may need to do this at different times each day. Try and set them out as far as you can so you start to reach a cadence. This will easier to form a new habit.

Curve the Addiction

I want you to turn off any email notifications you have and close any email applications you have open until it’s that time of the day to deal with your email.

When I worked at UBS, I even deleted the work email application off my phone. Can you?

Expectation Management

When you go on a course, do you set an out of office message saying that you are on a course and that you have limited access to email?

I do, and it sets the expectations of the email sender.

I want you to set your out of office message to the following –

My priority focus at the moment is to deliver [insert most important work you are doing for your clients here]. I will therefore only be reading and responding to my emails first thing in the morning and before I leave in the evening.

How can your clients and boss complain about you not responding quickly if you are focussed on the most important thing for them?

Wrap Up

Well I have gone a bit hard core this week and pushed you out of your comfort zone.

This is also going to be hard to achieve as this is a habit we are trying to break.

But I have confidence in your ability to achieve this goal this week and start reducing your email overload.

Next week, we are going to focus on how we can shorten the duration of time you are spending twice a day on your emails.

Have a great week.


P.S. – Please share this with a colleague as we could all use help with email overload.