One irresistible behaviour that adds to inbox overload is 'emergency scanning'.
The reason it is so difficult to stop is that it often has become a habit so integral to a part of our life. I'm having a problem with it at the moment. I did a great inbox clear out and got down to a reasonable size. My aim is to check just 4 times per day but I find in reality I am doing that far more often.
What am I looking for? The biggest business proposal ever made? An email saying I've won two first class tickets around the world? A book proposal? It seems as humans we are conditioned to keep opening it up just in case any of the above exciting things might have arrived since we last checked. Endorphin rushes give us the excitement we are searching for. Here's the problem when I'm checking invariably that's all I do. I scan and pick a couple of the most interesting to open if I have time. Then I move onto something else more riveting. At the very least what I should do is file the mail I know that I need to keep or delete anything not important. If I've bothered to go in I should at least do some housekeeping while I'm there. When I return to my laptop I open up mail again and guess what? I just look at the new ones because in my mind I've already seen the others and don't find them compelling enough to return to and deal with. Over the course of a week if that behaviour continues the inbox size grows and with it some anxiety about what is in there that is not being dealt with.
PROCESS RATHER THAN SCANNING TIPS
- Ensure that your mobile/tablet are synchronising your email so you never have to double handle anything. (Google Apps, Microsoft Exchange, IMAP etc)
- Set up a REPLY or ACTION folder so you have somewhere to put emails that cannot be answered in under two minutes and quickly put them in there
- Delete or file appropriately whenever you 'check'.
- If any email you receive does not float your boat unsubscribe immediately without guilt.
- Close your email program or even turn OFF your phone if you find yourself compulsively checking, take a deep breath when you get the urge and do something else like stretch or get some fresh air instead.