In my earlier article Confessions from an email addict, I spilt the beans on my compulsive email behaviours. Despite some frank self talk and bold promises, I’m sorry to report that my email addiction continues.

Behaviour such as checking email in the middle of the night and getting anxious if away from email may seem extreme to some. However, it seems I am in good company with 81% of Flying Solo readers polled saying they were addicted to email and heartfelt email confessions coming in from 60+ readers!

Jazinta admitted pride at having had over 25,000 emails in her inbox. Marie described withdrawal symptoms including heartburn, headache and shakes. Philip’s rapid response rates prompted clients to call him to see why he hadn’t responded to their email from only 20 minutes before!

To escape email’s clutches I declared that I would start checking email only four times per day for three weeks. And I succeeded enthusiastically right up until I fell off the wagon a day and a half later.

I soon found that email was too central to running my day-to-day business to let go of that easily. With most of my work done online, much of it with tight deadlines, long email blackouts seemed to do more harm than good. However, after some experimentation I did reach a compromise.

I have made, and am still making, some fundamental changes to my email habits that are working well:

  • I only turn email on in the morning when I’m actually ready to start work for the day – I was in the habit of checking email the minute I woke up
  • I now fully shut down the computer at the end of the workday – this cuts the temptation to pop in and check email during ad breaks or on weekends
  • I set aside uninterrupted blocks of time of at least an hour to work on set tasks before checking email briefly – I was previously checking email every 10 minutes
  • I am setting up rules and folders to manage automated or regular emails – these can then be checked when it suits me
  • I’m sticking to the good old fashioned mobile phone – I did have a BlackBerry for a few months but have since avoided the temptation to take my email with me

So there it is, some progress but the battle continues. For many of us, I think email overwhelm will remain a constant struggle. But I am resolved to better manage the symptoms. So far so good.

How are you going in your own fight with the inbox? We’d love to hear your experiences.

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