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Confessions Of An Email Addict: How I Stopped Being A Slave To My Inbox

How to stop being a slave to your inbox- Jessica LawlorI admit it.

I show all the classic signs of an email addict.

There was a time when I strived for Inbox Zero. I thought an empty inbox was the sign of an organized mind. But even that one time (just once!) that I did achieve Inbox Zero, guess what happened? Ten minutes later, the replies started rolling in.

Rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat.

Little did I know I had the definition of Inbox Zero completely wrong.

There are currently 49 emails in my personal Gmail Inbox (culled down from 110 this weekend). The furthest email back? One from May 2013, with a half-written reply from me. Yikes. But you know what? I’m okay with that.

Here’s the thing: I actually LIKE email. To me, my inbox is full of possibility; blog comments, newsletter replies, freelance writing opportunities, invitations to events, useful resources from other bloggers and business owners.

However, as much as I enjoy email, there’s no doubt that it’s a huge time-suck and source of stress and overwhelm.

The research out there tells us that email is terrible for us. We see article after article shared on Twitter about how email is making us less productive, making us lose sleep, stressing us out beyond belief.

I’ve definitely experienced my fair share of email overwhelm, but as I got to thinking about how my email habits have changed over the years, I realized that I’ve made a lot of headway with my email addiction.

I no longer feel like I’m a slave to my inbox. Here’s how you can curb your email addiction too:

1. Turn off the sound on your phone. What a totally simple, yet genius move! Last year, someone clued me in to the fact that I could keep the sound off on my phone and still have my phone alarm wake me up every morning. Ever since then, my phone’s sound has been permanently off. Prior to that? My response to that dreadful email ping was Pavlovian. Hear the sound? Immediately check my phone. Feel stressed out. Reply. I grew to hate the sound so much that I’d cringe whenever I heard it.

2. Don’t reply to emails first thing in the morning. I’m an early bird. I wake up at 5 a.m. every day to complete work for my freelance clients, blog and write. The reason I wake up at 5 a.m. is that early mornings are when I am most creative. We have a limited number of hours in the day where we can expend our creative energy and for me, those two peaceful hours before I need to leave for work are when I’m at my best. Why would I waste that precious time sifting through and replying to emails? I can generally manage my email inbox when I’m tired or not at my most creative, so I try to save email replies for lunchtime, evenings after work or designated times on the weekend.

3. Filter newsletters and promotional emails. This is a tactic that I just started a couple of weeks ago, but it’s already working wonders. I LOVE newsletters; I subscribe to all my favorite bloggers email newsletters. I enjoy the updates, but I realized that my inbox was FULL of emails that weren’t critical to my life, career or business at that very moment. Those emails were making it difficult to see what actually needed replying to and what could wait. I use Gmail and they offer a very simple way to filter emails to a certain folder and have them skip the inbox completely. All newsletters go to my “E-Newsletter” folder. That way, I can read those awesome newsletters when my mind is clear and I have the time to enjoy and learn from them. And don’t even get me started on promotional shopping emails! ALL emails from stores go straight into a “Shopping” folder which I only even open when I’m planning a shopping day and check to see what coupons or deals are available.

4. Delete or filter emails you no longer want to receive. Raise your hand if you’re guilty of simply deleting an annoying promotional or marketing email while scanning email on your phone? *Raises hand* It’s super easy to delete unwanted emails to get them out of your inbox at that very moment, but those pesky emails just keep coming back. Lately, I’m trying to get better about leaving those emails in my inbox until I have time to be at my computer and deal with them. From there, I decide if I want to unsubscribe from that mailing list or filter it into one of the above folders I discussed.

5. Simply, don’t reply right away. For some reason, I had it in my head that to be a “successful” professional/blogger/friend/person, you needed to reply to emails RIGHT.AWAY. Not true. My response time to emails used to be amazing; ridiculous even. It was like I was basically sitting at my computer waiting for emails to roll in. Not anymore. I’m following Alexandra Franzen’s mindset that not replying to an email for however long you need “does not mean you’re getting behind on your emails. You’re getting ahead on your life.” No one EXPECTS an immediate email reply (at least, I hope not) so taking a few days to process a reply is totally okay.

6. Set a designated time for email. Just like I schedule out my Tuesday/Thursday mornings to handle work for my major blog management client and plan my Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays for blog/freelance writing, I’m beginning to designate certain times for email replies. Usually, I reserve an hour or so on a Sunday afternoon or evening to spend some time managing my email inbox. Obviously, I check in daily (still, multiple times a day) to check for important messages, but I’ve found that *most* responses can wait until those designated reply times.

Need more email inspiration?

Are you a slave to your inbox? Share your best tips and tricks for curbing that addiction to email.

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Meet Jessica

I live by the saying “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” and help others do the same to reach their biggest, brightest goals. Read my story here.

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