Email Overload – Part 2

In part 1 of my “Email Overload” blog, we discussed why too many emails create extra stress and how to alleviate that while keeping your emails organized. I promised a follow-up blog post on another critical element to removing email stress from your life: you need to change the way you think about and respond to emails.

Ding, Ding, Ding

In the business of trade show exhibitions, and for anyone who is a small business owner, I am constantly checking and receiving emails at all hours of the day. But how many stupid, annoying dings do we need in our lives? My phone rings, a text message comes in, an email comes in and what happens? I get a stupid, annoying ding that notifies me every damn time. Sometimes I’ll simultaneously get the same notification on both my laptop and phone. Why do we constantly feel the need to immediately check what has come in? How often is it a life or death situation that can’t wait until you have finished what you are doing? It’s time to turn off some of those notifications. 


Multiple studies have shown how much time reading and responding to emails can take in a day. We need to permit ourselves to log off and set boundaries for when and where we are checking our inbox. Don’t send or reply to emails outside your regular working hours. If checking your work email is the first thing you do before you get out of bed in the morning and the last thing you do before you go to bed at night, you are creating unnecessary stress for yourself.

Protect and value your downtime. Rarely is a work email urgent enough to deal with outside your office hours. Nobody should expect you to respond 24 hours a day to an email, nor should they expect you to react immediately. These are expectations that technological developments have created only in the last 25 years. Before that, people starting working at 8 a.m. and left at 5 p.m., Monday to Friday. The end! The work-life balance was preserved, leaving time for family on evenings and weekends.

How do I make this work in my life? It takes some practice. I have stopped checking my emails until I get to work in the morning. I need “me” time in the morning. If I start checking and responding to emails, it leads me down the never-ending rabbit hole. There I am, still on my phone 30 minutes later in my pyjamas, hungry, and late for work. It throws off my whole morning.

Once I leave work, I don’t check my emails again for the rest of the evening. When I go home, I need to be able to give 100% of my attention to my family. There is nothing worse than finding myself on my phone working, mumbling the odd “oh no,” “that’s good,” or “oh really” when my 12-year-old is telling me all about the good and the bad in her day. Half the time, I can’t even remember what she said, or the worst is when she notices and shuts down because I wasn’t listening. Bad mom moment!

The easiest way to help you adjust to this mindset is to have a standard auto-reply that lets people know when you are away from your email, when you will be back and how to reach you if it is a real emergency. 

During the 9 to 5 hours of the week, it’s also okay to block off time in your day at work to get some work done without the constant interruptions of checking and responding to your email. For instance, do not check your email every day from 11 am – 1 pm. If you make this a regular habit, everyone will adjust to it. They might even try doing it themselves, leading to healthy email boundaries for your whole team.

Be direct

How often do you email back “Thanks” or “Have a good weekend too”? Why do we feel the need to respond continuously? Do you think 90% of the people we email care that much and stay awake worrying that you never emailed them back to say those things? I am here to tell you that they don’t. And the 10% who do, have too much email stress in their lives and need to read this blog!

There’s no need to CC and BCC absolutely everyone (what’s the dog walker’s email address again?). Do yourself a favour and stop. Take a second and ensure that you only include people who need to know. I get so many emails in a day, and I wish somebody didn’t have me in at least a quarter of them. Sometimes I would prefer to be on a “need to know” basis or get the “Coles Notes” version from one person, versus reading through 6 emails to stay in the loop.

Face to Face

Are you physically in the same office? Everybody should know when to get up from their desks and speak face-to-face. Sometimes, you need to see and hear your co-workers or clients to ensure you are understood clearly and avoid miscommunication. 

If you are in a different office, pick up the phone or send a quick message via text or an instant messaging app instead. Often these other forms of communication can avoid the time-sucking back and forth of emailing and cut back on the number of emails you receive with questions. Instant messaging is a better way to talk back and forth about a project and still have a record of the conversations without filling up your inbox. You avoid having to sort through multiple email threads when you want to go back and find the answer. You get to skip the niceties of emails and can sometimes answer a question with a one-word answer without worrying about offending somebody with your tone because you didn’t say, “Hi, I hope your day is going well.”

Take at least one tip from above and start practicing it daily. If anything, stop worrying about replying back to say thanks every time I email you. I won’t be offended and probably won’t even notice. If I need to follow up with you, I promise to have it scheduled on my task list, and you’ll hear from me when it is time.

All of these habits can lead to enhanced productivity and conversations in the office. Rather than experiencing the negative effects of email overload, you can learn to make effective changes that will allow you to “log off” outside of office hours and enjoy time for yourself, friends and family. 

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