Mindfully Managing Email

How to manage and decrease an over-flowing inbox

I’m old enough to remember the world and workplace without email.  In many ways, a less frantic world; however, modern communication has as many benefits as pitfalls.  Therefore, helping staff to manage email is far better than simply wishing it would disappear or hoping for a return to pen and paper!

Increasingly, companies are looking to manage email traffic through introducing policies, for instance, limiting when employees can send emails or by encouraging staff to limit who they copy in.  Here follows 4 mindful methods to help staff manage their inbox and focus on more productive tasks.

1) Step back… and breathe 

One of the main benefits of mindfulness is the ability to step back from busy situations and take a breather before continuing work.  Therefore, when becoming overwhelmed by workload and a full inbox, step back and take a few deep breaths to re-centre yourself and prioritise workload.  If a few breaths don’t work, it might be time to step away for a short break, practise a longer mindful pause in order to reset the mind and focus.

2) Take control… turn off alerts

Email alerts can be very difficult to ignore.  The mind likes switching attention from one thing to another.  In fact, when we move our attention, the body experiences a brief dopamine spike.  This is often referred to as the ‘happy hormone’, so it’s no wonder we like to keep changing what we’re focusing on.  Therefore, if possible, turn off the email alerts, and then you can focus on what you’re presently doing and open your emails when suits you (see below).

3) Decide when you’ll open emails… and stick to it!

Once upon a time, mail came through the post in letter form.  The mail would come a couple of times per day and most people had an in-tray so they’d put the envelopes there until ready to open and process what they found.  With mail being electronic, we have lost this sense of control and very often read and answer emails immediately.  Therefore, it might be an idea to treat email like ‘real physical’ mail – if someone put an envelope on your desk every 5 minutes, you wouldn’t open each one immediately.  You’d put them to one side and open them when ready – so, use the same approach for ‘electronic’ mail.

4) Have a system

Various systems are explored on Nimisa’s ‘Enhanced Focus’ programme.  In many ways, it doesn’t matter what system you use but having a system is important.  Encourage staff to decide in advance, what they’re going to do with emails – move to other folders, forward on, work on immediately, add to a list and delete?  Systems stop emails piling up and the temptation to continuously scroll through the inbox re-reading the same messages.

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