Coping With Email Overload

Peter Bregman posted this at Psychology Today

I’ve come to the conclusion that I use email to distract myself. Whenever I feel the least bit uneasy, I check my email. Stuck while writing an article? Bored on a phone call? Standing in an elevator, frustrated in a meeting, anxious about an interaction? Might as well check email. It’s an ever-present, easy-access way to avoid my feelings of discomfort.

What makes it so compelling is that it’s so compelling. I wonder what’s waiting for me in my inbox? It’s scintillating.

It also feels legitimate, even responsible. I’m working. I need to make sure I don’t miss an important message or fail to respond in a timely fashion.

But it’s become a serious problem. When we don’t control our email habit, we are controlled by it. Everyone I know complains about email overload.

Email pours in, with no break to its flow. And like addicts, we check it incessantly, drawing ourselves away from meetings, conversations, personal time, or whatever is right in front of us.

Source: Coping With Email Overload | Psychology Today

Go to the source if you’d like to read the rest of his thoughts. I’d like to share with you a way that I have found to control my email habit…

Tools without thought or tactics are worthless so I try to remind myself that email is best used as a tool for ‘just in time’ information – information that affects relationships and revenue. All your ‘just in case’ information belongs in a virtual newspaper like Google Reader. Think of how much lighter your email load would be if you didn’t let newsletters and other detritus in? How often have you started down the path to Inbox Zero and then been waylaid by a Victoria’s Secret or Cabella’s catalog in your inbox. There’s a time and a place for that; the time is your ‘personal news aggregation’ time and the place is Google Reader. My advice? Use Gmail for email with a touch of Merlin Mann’s Inbox Zero and David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ and you’ll be an INBOX HERO in no time!

If you’re looking for help in this area, try my online book on ‘personal news aggregation’ or how to create your own personal news agency. You can register free at Here are two recent lunch and learns I did on the topic of Gmail and Google Reader as well…

How to be an ‘Inbox Hero’ with Gmail…

How to be a Google Reader Rockstar…

4 thoughts on “Coping With Email Overload

  1. Todd, you are right, the “just in case” stuff belongs in a separate place. I never really thought of it this way till hearing it from you. Now I use Google Reader and also use filters in my Gmail account. E-mail newsletters end up in their own special folder automatically. When I’m done with something, it gets archived or deleted.

    This is a big change from my previous method where everything and everything sat in my inbox almost forever. Now, only the most important “action-required” items sit in my inbox, and everything else is dealt with when I have spare time.

    Folders, automatic filters, flags, and archiving are such wonderful tools!

    I agree with the “e-mail vacation” advice in the article. There is a time to check e-mail, and there is a time to sit down at the dinner table and put the “toys” away. I’ve learned that the less I obsess over checking my e-mail, the happier I am. Great article!


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