Years ago, I was leaving the office cafeteria after eating lunch with my boss.
As we got close to the exit, she stopped and said hi to the company president, who was sitting with several other executives at a table near the door.
He was a handsome guy—a salesman by trade—in his mid-40s. We knew from an email that he was headed out on vacation.
“Looking forward to a few days off?” my boss asked.
“Can’t wait,” he said with a grin. “But you know, I have this problem…”
He held up his cell phone.
“This thing is like a leash,” he said.
And he was right. It is.
Email Enables Productivity—But Destroys It Too
I don’t know how many emails the president of my old company sent and received every day, but it was a lot.
Email keeps us connected like no other tool, but it can also be overwhelming.
The numbers vary depending on the study, but it seems most business accounts send and receive something like 100 emails per day.
That’s one email every 4.8 minutes, assuming an eight-hour workday.
No wonder an Adobe survey found business emails gobbled up 3.2 hours of the average white-collar worker’s day.
If anything, you’d expect it to be more.
That dopamine hit my brain gets when I give in, walk to the kitchen, and pop a few M&Ms is identical to the dopamine hit my brain gets when an email notification flashes in the corner of my desktop.
Data, however, holds tremendous promise for people who are addicted to their email.
Numerous studies have shown that keeping a food journal is one of the most surefire ways to curb mid-day snacking. In fact, one of the first studies on the topic showed people who kept a paper or photographic diary of their food lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t keep a record.
The reason this works is simple. The awareness of what you’re eating keeps you accountable, so recording what you eat is the key.
You can tackle your email addiction using the same principles.
The key? Keeping track of your time.
How to Mindlessly Track Your Email Usage
This—of course—is where things usually fall apart.
You know email addiction is bad. You know tracking our time would be good. But you don’t do it—because it’s a pain to keep up with.
That’s why we created a free tool you can use to track your email usage automatically.
It’s a free Chrome extension called Gmail Time Tracker.
Just install the tool. It will record your time spent on each message from that point forward.
All you have to do is review the reports every day or two.
No remembering to turn it on or off. No need to manually switch “tasks” after every email.
It shows you how much time you really spend in email, plus whose emails eat up the bulk of your time.