Monday, March 19, 2018

Checking emails less often will make you a nicer person

Being constantly connected via your phone really does increase your stress levels. It's no longer just anecdotal or commonsense arguments that show that. A study published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior a few years ago now followed the reported stress levels of two groups of office workers, one of which was allowed to check their emails just three times a day, the other group being allowed to check whenever they wanted. The group that only checked emails three times a day was noticeably more relaxed. However, in order to show that it was the phone-checking that was actually causing the stress, and that this was not just a false impression created by a particularly stressy group of people, the two groups then switched over and, sure enough, the previously relaxed group was now the anxious and stressed group.
So, what can be done to ameliorate the problem? A Globe and Mail article today offers five simple practical steps that can be taken to cut down obsessive phone-checking for business people:
  1. Delegate some of the checking to a trusted assistant who can alert you to any urgent messages, but free you up to get on with the rest of your job.
  2. Use a real old-fashioned alarm clock to wake you up in the morning, so that you are less likely to check emails and texts first thing in the morning.
  3. Similarly, and for the same reasons, use a watch to check the time, not your phone (you'd be surprised how often you do it during a day), or leave your phone on airplane mode so that you can check the time without getting caught up in emails and messages.
  4. Set specific times to check emails, say once an hour or even less frequently, and limit the time spent checking to say 15 minutes so that you can at least deal with the urgent issues on a timely basis (trying to keep your inbox empty is likely self-defeating, because every email you answer will probably trigger another response).
  5. Take yourself a bit less seriously: the world will keep on spinning regardless of whether you respond to an email immediately or not.
Sound advice, I'd say, and although it is mainly aimed at the busy business person or entrepreneur, much of it also translates to the regular Joe or to a student.

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