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Is Email Taking Over Your Life?


The first thing I do every morning is answer my email. During the day, I check my email multiple times. Before I go to bed? Yep, email. One more time. Just in case.

Answering emails is a part of the territory if you’re a professional blogger, or really any kind of online professional. Sometime, though, I think I overdo it. Do I really need to check my email so often.

I started thinking about how often I check my email because I read an article on Mashable called “The Truth About Email” and was surprised at the one of the stats they posted – 19% of people surveyed check their emails while in bed. That number jumps to 31% among 18- to 34-year-olds.

I was surprised…but I’ve done it. There are nights when I’ll work while sitting in bed before I go to sleep and mornings when I’ll do some work from bed while having a cup of coffee.

My theory is that this number is so high because so many people are starting their own blogs. Even before quitting their day jobs, many are publishing content online, either as a hobby or side job to make a little extra money. It would be interesting to do another poll, this time just with bloggers, both full and part time. I’m willing to bet that email in bed is even more common among bloggers!

Although it is a task that we have to do is we want any kind of success, email can easily take up way too much time. I’m a guilty part when it comes to this, since I easily click on my email to check it 20+ times a day. More if I’m doing a project I find boring, unfortunately.

Confessional: The other day, I was answering a rather long email, and in the middle of doing it, I opened a new window to check my email. That’s right; I checked my email while I was answering an email.

I know some people limit the number of times per day they check their email. I’ve found that it doesn’t work for me to do that to myself. I just get panic-y that I’m going to miss an important email or an email that will make my job easier. If it works for you to say, “I will only check my email at 8 AM and 5 PM every day, more power to you. If that doesn’t work for you like it doesn’t work for me, here are a few tips you can use:

  • Create a folder called “need to answer.” If something isn’t pressing but does demand a reply, put it in folder and set aside time at the end of the day (preferably before you get into bed!) to answer these emails. It’s more efficient than answering emails one at a time as you receive them during the day and also helps you keep need-to-answer emails separate from other emails you want to save, like email newsletters.
  • Forward all emails to a single address. You might have different emails for different blogs, a personal email for friends, etc. I know I do. Forward them all to a single address that you can check during the day. Just make sure you answer emails from the correct account!
  • Set up your cell to make a noise when you get an email, if you have a net-friendly phone. I think there are some desktop clients that do the same thing, essentially – ping when you have a new email. Of course, if you get hundreds every day, that’s not going to work, but if you get more like a dozen every day, this saves you from going through the log in process even though you don’t have any new messages.

My last bit of advice? Use a separate email for signing up for things like contests and newsletters and such – anything that might put you on a spam list. That way, you aren’t checking non-necessary crap during the day – you can just sort through that when you have time to pull out the legitimate emails. Keep a separate email address for your blog or work, because those are the emails that really matter and need the quickest answers.

Ok, I gave my email tips – your turn! How do you keep email from taking over your life?


  • Amy

    One way that I prioritize checking e-mail throughout the day is setting my Blackberry to make different sounds for different email accounts. I have three email accounts that come to my PDA (I know… ridiculous) but there is only one that is of great importance to me. So when I hear that particular sound, I usually check it right away. This was a funny blog for me to read because the odds of myself and my boyfriend sitting in bed checking e-mail before it’s time to hit the pillow are very high. Regardless of whether it’s with a laptop or PDA. I think we are just at an age when we are so focused on being as efficient as possible to further our careers that technology in bed is convenient, not appalling.

  • John McLachlan

    Alli, great advice. You’ve hit on a problem that is much bigger than we are able to admit to. I find the desire to check email just feeds on itself until we lose our awareness.

    More important than that, we lose our sense of other important things. The similarities with addictions is creepy really.

    I need to check my email way less. New strategies are welcome. Thanks for suggestions.

  • Nikki

    My obsession with email has less to do with the fear I’m going to miss out on something important, and more the obsessive-compulsion to NEVER have anything on my to-do list. This stems back to when I was in school and would do every piece of homework, reports, reading – as far forward as the teacher had given us – because I couldn’t stand knowing there was something to be done.

    I have had to put systems in place for email and if I have over 100 emails in my inbox, I start to freak out! They all have to filed in nice compartments 🙂

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