Are You E-Mindful?

Ever pressed click and send and wished you hadn’t? We’ve all been there. If you can’t leave your inbox alone and you’re constantly connected, bringing mindfulness to your work and your email may prevent you from becoming an E — hostage. Here are our 6 top tips to stop email consuming your waking (and sleeping) hours.

Email is a super quick, efficient and easy way of keeping in touch. It makes life so much easier, we hear you say. But do you ever wonder if you’re a little too connected? You’re not alone. Edward Hallowell, MD describes the resulting state caused by constant distraction at work as Attention Deficit Trait, or ADT.

Your brain on email

“ADT?” you say, “I need my email.” You’re right, email is quick and efficient. We agree. But there is a dark side to being permanently connected. When we’re required to process huge amounts of data over long periods of time we become less efficient, making more mistakes. Once the very sensible and efficient frontal lobes in the brain, or the executive function as they’re known, reach full capacity, we start to feel overwhelmed. This kicks in a stress response and your body moves onto red alert. When you’re pulled in a million different directions, including constant email, this is what’s happening in your brain. It’s easy to feel overloaded, out of control and on a permanent treadmill. This is mind — less rather than mindful. Don’t beat yourself up, there are some very good neurological reasons for your seemingly irrational behaviour.

E is for Endorphins

Slavishly checking emails when you’re not at work? Email is workplace crack. We just can’t help going back for more. If you find your inbox impossible to ignore, dopamine may be the culprit. Responsible for controlling the brain’s ‘pleasure’ symptoms, dopamine may be impelling you to seek out your next ‘hit.’ The problem is we tend to seek more than we are satisfied, hence the persistent checking of emails. Email is the technological replacement for Pavlov’s bell. So how can you stop yourself from becoming a slave to email?

5 Mindful Emailing Strategies

  1. S.T.O.P. and pause. When you recognise the urge to check your emails, try this simple 60 second mindfulness technique. Stop. Take three long breaths. Observe how you are feeling, notice your thoughts and accompanying physical sensations without judging them. Notice what’s happening for you right here, right now. Ask yourself, “Am I 100% sure that I need to check my emails right now. P is for proceed. Using S.T.O.P. will help you to retrain your brain, avoiding that Pavlovian habit.
  2. Set clear boundaries. Before you open your inbox, decide how long you are going to spend on your emails. One option is to check emails at set times of the day when it’s viable. Check and respond for half an hour at the beginning of the day, at lunchtime and an hour before you leave. Add a note to your signature to let people know when you’ll be checking email and switch off notifications. Limit distractions and the opportunity for ADT to take hold. Your brain (and your body’s stress response) will thank you for it.
  3. Be clear about your intention: When you receive an email that sends you into “Grrrh!” mode, stop. Take a break. Step away from the keyboard. Do not respond immediately. Try and place yourself in the position of the other person. Are you certain that they meant to annoy you? Think about how your response will be received, try and imagine the person at the receiving end and compose your mail accordingly. We suggest a longer gap depending upon how annoyed you are. If in doubt, compose your email, leave it 24 hours and then return to it with a calmer mind.
  4. Cull your subscriptions: If your inbox is crammed with subscriptions to sites and feeds that you know you’ll never read cull them. Limit overload by unsubscribing to irrelevant mails that clog your system up. Rather than simply flicking through and deleting, go for an overhaul. It will save you time in the long run.
  5. Be smart about social media: Rather than responding mind — lessly to social media throughout the day use an app like Buffer or Nutshell Man to schedule posts in advance, leaving you to concentrate on tasks that need uninterrupted focus instead.
  6. Pick up the phone: It’s so much easier to clarify misunderstandings and communicate clearly in person or on the phone. It will help you to build relationships and establish a reputation as an effective communicator rather than an email hothead. The Google mindfulness at work programme, Search Inside Yourself, recognises that where possible, it really is the most effective option. Think of this as an opportunity to exercise your emotional intelligence, to negotiate with colleagues rather than alienating them in a moment of amygdala hijack.

Gill Crossland-Thackray is a business psychologist, lecturer, trainer and coach. She is Director of Koru Development and Co-Director of Positive Change Guru. She is a contributing writer at Thrive Global and has written about psychology for a number of global publications including The Guardian, HR Zone and Ultra Sport. She is also visiting professor at CHE University, Phnom Penh.

Through Koru and Positive Change Guru she works internationally with CEOs, senior executives, businesses and individuals to optimise leadership, performance and wellbeing. If you’ve enjoyed this post please consider clicking on the heart. You can contact Gill at gill@positivechangeguru.comTo find out more follow her at @KoruDevelopment and @PosChangeGuru


Originally published at positivechangeguru.com on March 11, 2017.