Out of Control Email? 3 Steps to Reduce the Stress

Out of Control Email? 3 Steps to Reduce the Stress

It is common knowledge that stress can kill us.  But did you know email could be a major factor in your stress levels?  Recently, 75% of survey respondents reported moderate to high levels of stress related to their email; specifically, email volume and response expectations.

Why don’t we just shut down our email?  Studies show when we get emails and text messages we get a hit of the brain chemical Dopamine. Dopamine has long been known as controlling the pleasure systems of the brain, but the latest research is changing this view, indicating that Dopamine causes “seeking” behavior. Dopamine causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search.  So when we hear our phone buzz indicating a message, our brains are blasting us with Dopamine, motivating us to check it out.

Here are three tips for controlling your email stress:

  1. Turn the email off.  Close your email and put two times a day on your calendar to respond to email.  This will also require you to turn off the sound notifications on your computer, phone, and tablets. It’s recommended that you set expectations with your clients and co-workers that you will only be checking email during you set times.  You may want to permanently put an out-of office message on indicating your email strategy. If it’s urgent, they will call you.
  2. Pick up the Phone.  Stop hiding behind email and just pick up the phone and talk to the person.  This can avoid the constant back and forth of emails.  While discussing the situation, type up call notes and send them during your email hours to the other party as a call follow-up.  This will allow you to document the conversation without the long email streams.
  3. Create Email Etiquette Guidelines.  By creating corporate guidelines on how to use email, you can help reduce email stress and volume. Guidelines should include using meaningful subject lines, when to use “reply all”, how to leverage templates and out of office messages and, most of all, a mandate to be concise.

By changing how you use email, you can reduce your stress and focus on your projects, thus increasing your effectiveness.  But it will take discipline and commitment to turn it off, as your brain chemistry will want you to seek out what’s in your inbox. 

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