Boss Lady

How email is taking over your life – and what to do about it


Do you get that sinking feeling every time you open your email inbox and see just how many new emails have arrived since you last checked? Yeah, I’ve been there too.

If you had told me when I was five years old that I would spend a big chunk of my life processing and responding to magical instantaneous mail, I would have thought you were crazy. I also would have thought that instantaneous mail sounded pretty amazing. So how did we get here, to that sinking feeling?

TMI (too much information)

The problem with email is that it’s instant, and it’s cheap. It doesn’t take much time or money to send an email. Those two factors put together mean that the amount of information coming in through your inbox is more than you can realistically process.

Here’s some facts about how email affects us today:

  • The average manager spends an estimated 4 hours every week reading and responding to unnecessary emails
  • Every time you interrupt your work to read an email, it takes an average of 23 minutes to get your head back into the work you were doing beforehand
  • Having your email inbox open while you work lowers your ability to function by the same amount as being 10 IQ points lower

Be the boss of your inbox

Here are some strategies and ideas for taming the email monster:

Use an app to help you unsubscribe

An app like Unroll.Me can help you instantly unsubscribe from those newsletters that amass in your inbox like washed-up refuse on a beach. As a bonus, Unroll.Me will bundle the emails you’re still subscribed to into a single daily digest.

Limit how often you check your email

The productivity experts all agree: you should check your email at specific times, instead of having it open all day. You may feel nervous about not being on top of everything that’s happening this minute, but give it a try! The productivity payoff is huge when you’re not being interrupted every few minutes. If you really can’t get away with this, then try to block out a few hours, or one day a week, when you can switch email off and focus completely on other work.

Say “thanks but no thanks”

If you keep getting included in work emails you don’t actually need to read, it can do wonders to send a polite “Thanks for the update! From now on I’m happy to be left out of the loop until my input is required.”

Do it fast, and do it now

When you’re working through your inbox, keep an eye out for any emails you can deal with quickly. If you can respond to or act on an email in two minutes or less, then do it straight away. Every email you don’t act on now is an email you’ll have to look at again later. Do your future self a favour and save her the effort.

If you have the time, you can increase “two minutes or less” to “five minutes or less”, or “ten minutes or less”. Remember, anything you deal with right now saves you time in the future.

Use an app for timely reminders

Apps like Boomerang or FollowUpThen make emails vanish from your inbox and come back as unread messages when you need them. Boomerang also allows you to write and schedule emails in advance, so (if you have flexible hours like me), you can cue up emails to fire off at 8:50am tomorrow, while you’re still sleepily eating your breakfast.

Slow down a little

Here’s my biggest tip: slow down a little, and process your inbox one email at a time. I guarantee that you’ll instantly feel less rushed, and more connected to the real human beings you’re communicating with. When you focus on one thing at a time, you feel less stressed and actually get more done.

That sinking feeling when you open your inbox? Gone. And who knows, you may even feel a five-year-old’s amazement at magical instantaneous mail.

About Christina Majoinen

Christina Majoinen is a productivity tutor, writer, and lover of wide-leg pants. She teaches productivity skills that help you live better ¬– not faster. You can find her over at Project TGL (

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