Why (And How) I Stopped Checking Email

So you thought working in the wellness arena would be good for you. You imagined you’d feel happier and more relaxed, be a shining example to others. If you’re self-employed, you dreamed of having more free time and autonomy.

But you’re finding it horribly easy to forget self-care. Although your work is about health, you’re sinking under stress. And there’s one place this shows up most perniciously...

The Inbox.

Most of us spend an inordinate amount of time staring at a screen. We’re a slave to the inbox; it’s our (new) boss.

This realization smacked me in the head with full force back in 2010. I was experiencing tremendous business growth and I had a busy coaching practice. I was midway through writing my first book and was teaching a brand new course when I developed RSI (repetitive strain injury). My body ground to a painful halt. I couldn’t get words down onto the screen. I couldn’t reply to these wonderful clients. I couldn’t even leave my partner a love note.

I cried tears of frustration as my love of communication hit wall after wall. The fear hanging over me was that I’d never be able to write again — at least not freely as I always had.

I realized I had to do less, but in a way that wouldn’t destroy my business. I had to find where that line was, so my key question changed from, "What more can I do?" to, "What less can I do?" In particular, how little time could I spend at the computer?

Three years later, the pain of RSI is a faint memory but the wise email habits remain. What I discovered, and what I offer you, is that less is more when it comes to your inbox.

So, I challenge you.

  • Close your email browser. Remove it completely from view. Turn notifications off your phone too.
  • Schedule a 30-minute period to enter your inbox (Yes, just once per day).
  • Deal with every email from bottom to top. Focus on one at a time. Single-task. There’s no, “I’ll come back to this later.” Identify the next action step, take it and move on. This will get you to Inbox Zero within a half hour.
  • As you go through, unsubscribe from any mailing list you don’t currently read and gain tremendous value from. Love a particular newsletter? Filter it into a separate folder called "Reading" or "Interest" and schedule a different time to enjoy making your way through. Keep this distinct from email-process time.
  • Don’t reply to every email. Ask yourself whether a response is essential; often, it’s not. We’re overwhelming ourselves with untenable politeness, and we need a new etiquette in this mega-information digital age.
  • All done? Get out of that inbox. Consider it quicksand — the longer you spend in there, the more likely it’ll suck you down. Close the browser and take a breath. Fear not, you’ll be back in there again in 24 hours!
  • Have a massive quantity of email that makes one daily check insufficient? It’s either a sign that your business is booming, in which case you can hire an assistant, or that it’s time to develop more streamlined communication policies.

Ready to take the challenge? You’re your own best asset, and taking care of yourself is paramount. I’m cheering you on, and I’d love to hear how powerful you find this new practice.

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