Reduce your email stress in 2022 with these 6 tips

No one can deny that our constant connectedness through email, text messages, and social media can be overwhelming. And for many of us, a full email inbox has come to symbolize the overload we sometimes experience in our work lives.
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Make less email stress your New Year's resolution!
So in 2022, resolve to manage stress with our six email stress reducers!

Email stress management strategies

Email is a complex tool that is used for a broad range of communication purposes. There is no “right” or “wrong” way to manage your email – it’s all about what works best for you. Both your personality and the type of work you do will determine the most effective ways to reduce stress and get a handle on your email. Here are six tips you can try to reduce the stress of work email:
  1. Consider whether email is the right tool for the job
  2. Don’t send emails outside of office hours
  3. Don’t check and reply to work emails on your private phone
  4. Only check your email at predefined times
  5. Tell people your email preferences
  6. Turn off email notifications

 1. Consider whether email is the right tool for the job

When you have a hammer, every problem can look like a nail. However, email is not the only instrument available in your work communication toolbox. Keep in mind that a quick internal message to a single individual can often be communicated efficiently by picking up the phone or by walking down the hall to speak to the person (which will also help you hit your step count!). Since the start of the pandemic at the latest, most offices also have instant messaging and video calling platforms. All of these methods have the advantage of allowing you to steer the communication and receive answers and feedback in real time. And keeps the replies to these questions from piling up in your inbox.

2. Don’t send emails outside of office hours (and use delayed delivery if you have to)

Sending and replying to emails outside of your regular working hours makes it harder for you – and the people you are writing to – to recover from work-related stress, as research has shown. Be considerate of your coworkers and show responsible leadership to your subordinates by refraining from contacting them after hours, and you will probably also be rewarded by a significant drop in incoming mails late in the evening or on the weekends. As noted above, however, you are the best judge of the work habits that suit your job and personality. If you find that checking your emails one last time after you put your kids to bed, for example, makes the following work day better, consider using the delay delivery option to ensure your replies don’t arrive in people’s inboxes until the following morning. Otherwise you may be causing stress to your colleagues who prefer to have an early night. Delayed delivery can also be used as a courtesy when communicating across time zones.

3. Don’t check and reply to work emails on your private phone

If you have a work phone, consider making it the only mobile device you can check work emails on. This means you have the freedom to switch it off and ignore new emails that come in after work hours. If you don’t have a separate work phone, think about limiting your work emails to your work laptop or PC – don’t even set up your work email on your personal phone in the first place. This may seem like shirking, but consider how much attention you can actually give a work email that pops up on your phone during date night with your spouse, your child’s soccer game, or a weekend hike. The quality and accuracy of your replies will be much better if you save work emails for times when they have your undivided attention. And no matter if you check your emails on a phone or a laptop, try to avoid late night screen time. This will reduce your stress by improving your ability to get to sleep and switch off those constant thoughts about work.

4. Only check your email at predefined times

One of the main reasons that people find email such a stressor at work is that they continuously check their messages to avoid missing out on anything important. The problem here is that checking your email involves switching from email to task and task to email. Every time you do this, you brain has to re-focus on the task at hand, which is increasingly difficult and stressful each time you do it. Many experts therefore recommend “email batching” – only checking email a certain number of times each day. You are the best judge of the appropriate interval for your workplace – five times, twice or even once a day. For example, you might choose to deal with emails at 8 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Block an appropriate amount of time in your calendar for email and switch it off the rest of the day. If you are worried that people expect an instant response (which they most likely do not), consider setting up an automatic reply for the times your email is off: “Hi, I will be checking emails at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. EST. In urgent cases, please contact me via Skype.”

5. Tell people your email preferences

Not everyone likes the same communication methods, and one common cause of work stress can be a mismatch in these preferences – one colleague likes writing carefully considered mails, while another would rather grab the phone for a quick call. In addition to an autoresponder as suggested above, finding ways to communicate your email preferences to your coworkers and clients can be a great way to reduce your work stress. List your contact preferences in your email signature – let people know what times you are available, whether by email, text, phone or instant message. This information can also be included in your profile in your company’s intranet.

6. Turn off email notifications

Once you have communicated your email availability and how you can be contacted in urgent cases, you can feel free to turn off “push” email delivery (where the server delivers incoming emails immediately to your inbox) and pop-up notifications. Instead, choose a regular schedule for checking email as described above, and consider defining an interval (like once an hour) for emails to be delivered to the mailbox on your phone.  General notifications are not usually helpful – they simply distract you without giving you any information about whether the incoming message is important. If there is someone whose emails have to be answered immediately, like an important client or the lead on a project with an upcoming deadline, keep those specific notifications on. This will keep you from having to constantly check your inbox.
 
Looking for more tricks and tools to manage your emails more effectively? Watch this space: We’ll be ringing in the new year with a series of email life hacks to help you gain control of your inbox.
 
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