Cure Your E-mail Addiction

Are you addicted to e-mail? I mean truly addicted, in an unhealthy way -- do you find it difficult to unplug or put your BlackBerry away for more than a few minutes per day? If so, your e-mail obsession can be debilitating: Unhealthy for your personal life and counterproductive for your business life.

You should take steps to break the cycle now. The good news is that you don't have to check into a clinic; it's something you can train yourself to do.


The Harvard Business Review recently talked about how to cure e-mail addiction. The story begins with a classic psychology experiment from the 60s, in which a bunch of young children were asked to defer gratification by not eating a marshmallow. The kids were free to eat the marshmallow at any time. But if they could wait a little longer, they could have two marshmallows. The result? 70% of the children gave up in less than a minute.

So how does this apply to email addiction? It turns out that the kids who delayed gratification found something else to focus on. They never looked at the marshmallow. This technique, known as "strategic allocation of attention," can be used to wean yourself off e-mail. Says the HBR:

"If you're truly tethered to your email, start small. Choose a specific time each day to turn off your email for a half hour, or an hour, and focus on something that requires your full attention. Then begin adding other times as your focus gets stronger."
So, stop checking e-mail at lunch this week, and before you know it, you'll be able to complete a small project without diverting your attention to the inbox a dozen times. It'll make you faster and more efficient.

Photo by Mzelle Biscotte