Thank Goodness For Email

Will has recently had various coaching conversations, and conversations at home for that matter, on how our time is ‘invaded’ by the demands of our technologies. We all know how easy it is to have our attention caught by our phones and whatever social media we fancy, and the apparently dreaded – and secretly celebrated – email inbox. Of course The Social Dilemma has made very clear that grabbing your attention is indeed the intention: your attention is what is being sold!  The question – and challenge – is, can you create an intention to have your attention focused where you need it most and where would actually, in the long run, be more fulfilling? 

Let’s face it: we’re dealing with addiction here. Addiction to the dopamine hits. And with all addictions, our email also gives us an escape from other, perhaps more difficult, realities.  Academics always laugh knowingly when we say, ‘Thank goodness you have email, otherwise you’d have to work harder to find excuses to put off your writing’!  

Unlike other addictions though, as a coachee recently pointed out, email is one you have to continue to encounter. It’s almost impossible to function without it. And social media is always on and constantly updating. So here are a few strategies worth trying, whether your aim is refocusing your email attention, tackling social media, or both:

1) Stop ‘doing email’. Instead, break email down to the task you’re actually doing. Identify time to communicate, via email, with students, or time to communicate with colleagues, or with other categories of relationships.  Yes, we know there are lots of buts. But you can actually do it, and quite effectively. It means deciding before you begin what you are focusing on, rather than scanning the inbox (aka ineffective to-do list). Students? Co-authors? Module admin? Your mum?  And a top tip: the fewer emails you write – ta da! – the fewer you get, and soon you’ll enjoy more peace beyond the pull of the short-term hit.

2) Check-out Moment, one of the only apps in the world available for free that is designed to help you use your phone less, not more.  Each day offers a new tip … including stopping taking the phone to the bathroom. Yes, we all do. Another useful one, to help you build your social media resistance muscle, is Freedom. Decide in advance when you get to check in on the Twitterverse and when you don’t.

3) Use a timer. How about setting an old fashioned timer that is not linked to your phone or computer? While our lives can have some beautiful non-timed moments –  the more the better – in our working lives timing is everything. Will enjoys having a watch to hand, Laura a timer (her current favorite is a silent countdown one like this. Decide how long you are allowing yourself for your email sprint or Instagram deep dive, do it, enjoy it, then stop..

Next: The Perfect Day