My name is Chris, and I’m an Inbox Addict.
Addiction comes in many forms, so let’s quickly get it out of the way that I’m not comparing my dependency on the inbox to those that suffer and struggle on a daily basis with various substances. The definition of addiction is the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity. The connotation of the word tends to point to a dark, negative place. I’m aware that ‘Inbox Addiction’ does not qualify. Let’s move on.
I check my inbox all day long. While sitting at my computer during the day I constantly have multiple Gmail windows open, one for each address I regularly use. If I’m reading an article online I often stop mid-sentence to go back to said windows to see if any new message has appeared. When there is nothing new and my inbox looks exactly as I left it 2 minutes earlier, I double-check and click the word ‘Inbox’ to retrieve those all important messages that must be sitting somewhere in cyber purgatory, not yet reaching the warm, cozy confines of my email account(s). In fact, I’ve done this 3x while writing this one little paragraph.
When on the move the situation isn’t much different, except now I’m looking down at my stupid phone screen, ruining my eyesight and destroying my posture, while enhancing my already impending arthritis of the phone hand (inflammus jointus iphoneus) and most importantly, ignoring the world around me. But hey, at least my phone isn’t in my front pocket chipping away at the health of my balls.
Many of you probably suffer from Inbox Addiction without even realizing it. That’s what makes it so powerful and a tad bit devious. It masks itself as productivity when in fact it is the exact opposite. Like most drugs, it feels good but does bad.
Email is reactive, not proactive. Someone else is setting your agenda. Think about this. Respond to that. Proofread my proposal. Answer a question. Check out these penguins. You bang these things out like DiCaprio at the Victoria Secret show and feel pretty good about yourself, falsely believing that you were just a beacon of productivity. What happens next? A response to your response. A ‘thank you for helping’ email. A follow up question. MORE PENGUINS!!!!. The cycle NEVER ends.
Almost all of my work communication is via email. My clients are spread out across the country. My team is virtual, based in various corners of the globe. In a business that operates as such, and a service business to boot, how can one avoid being a slave to the inbox?
Back in September of 2014 I created a mock daily schedule for myself, beginning with a morning routine and ending with a list of things I wanted to do after work. Get home at 6PM to play with my son before bedtime. Drink a cup of green tea. Write one thing on an index card I want to accomplish the following day. For the most part, my mornings and evenings have been consistent since the original schedule was drawn up. Some of the specifics have changed over time but I feel that setting these guidelines has been a big success. What happens in between, not so much.
The main focus of the schedule while at work was based around combatting my Inbox Addiction. My plan was (is?) to batch my email sessions, only opening my accounts at set times during the day for 30mins each. I have failed miserably. Every so often a day comes along where I say to myself, “Chris, you handsome mother fucker, today you WILL follow your email rules”, and I do. And those days make me feel like this guy:
Unfortunately, they are few and far between.
All I can do is keep trying. I’ll get there.