27 Ways to Be a Stress-Free Email User
Hit "send" on your cortisol—for good.
Out of all the things that cause a ridiculous amount of stress in life, email is definitely a biggie. And considering that one study found 28 percent of the average workweek is spent reading and responding to emails, it’s definitely something worth trying to figure out how to get a better handle on. Whether it’s late-night emails from your boss that are driving you up the wall or just the sheer amount of emails clogging your inbox in general, here are 27 ways you can start being a stress-free email user right now. And for more ways to master this art we’re all beholden to every day, see the 17 Genius Email Hacks That Will Improve Your Life.
Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe. Unsubscribe.
You already get a ton of emails from people you know, so all the emails that come in from stores, online publications, and other random places are only cluttering up your inbox even more. Go through and unsubscribe to the places you don’t care about. And if there are too many to possibly handle on your own, use a service like Unroll.me that can help you rid your inbox of hundreds of stressful subscriptions in minutes.
Stay offline during vacation.
Vacation means not having to hear a single request from your, even in email-form. So why are you still checking during your time off? The second you leave for your trip, turn on an out-of-office message for anyone who sends something your way—and don’t you dare think about checking in. Sure, managers aren’t exactly the best at giving their employees personal space when they’re off the clock, but you have every right to enjoy your vacay email- and stress-free. Digital detox, here you come. And for more amazing ways to make the most of your email, check out the 15 Ways You’re Writing Emails Wrong.
Sometimes being a stress-free email user means stepping away from tech and grabbing good ol’ pen and paper. According to research out of the Harvard Business School, jotting down a “response list” of what incoming emails you need to address can help you get through them more effectively. Once you’ve made your list, respond to what actually needs to be responded to and forget the rest.
Use Gmail’s “Smart Reply” feature.
If you use Gmail, one easy way to help rid some stress from your life is to use the “smart reply” feature, which suggests different responses based on your email-writing style. Instead of having to draft out a long response, it lets you send an email back to someone with a simple tap. The pre-populated responses are pretty short and sweet, but in some instances, why not take advantage?
Limit your email to one device.
These days, you have access to your email everywhere you turn: your laptop, your phone, your tablet, and your smart watch (if, you know, you have one of those). Yeah, that’s a lot of notifications. A survey from Future Work Centre found those who received emails on their devices had higher levels of stress—it’s just too much data for one person to handle and still stay sane. Instead, try to only check your email on one device, not all of them. And for more ways to master this everyday art, don’t miss the 15 Cold Open Business Emails That Set You Apart.
Only check your email at certain times.
If you check your email all day long, your productivity levels are going to plummet and your stress levels will shoot through the roof. Instead, stick to what’s on your to-do list and only open your inbox at certain times, whether it’s every couple hours or a few times a day. That way, you’ll stay on task and it won’t interfere with your day-to-day activities.
And definitely don’t check it in the morning or at night.
Technology enables people to work 24/7 if they want to: you really never have to shut off. It’s definitely a good thing to keep parts of your day email-free, though. According to the folks at the Future Work Centre, survey participants said checking their messages in the morning or later on at night upped their stress levels. And how can it not? You’re seeing things that just result in more pressure from your boss, your acquaintances, and everyone else in your life. By shutting off, you’ll finally give yourself the chance to reenergize.
Fill out the “to” field last.
How many times have you sent an email before you were ready to send it? Or realized you made a mistake after tapping that button? As anyone can attest, it’s not a good feeling. Gmail has an “Undo” feature that allows you, for a short time, to “unsend” emails, but there’s one easy way to avoid any mishaps in the first place. Until your email is proofread and ready to go, leave the “To” field empty. Then, when you are ready to send, you can type the recipient’s name in and get your email out without anything going wrong.
Don’t leave your email open all day long.
If you’re the type of person who always has their email open and is constantly getting distracted my incoming messages, stop that habit immediately. According to survey data from Future Work Centre, those who watch their email all day long experienced more pressure from said emails. So keep your check-ins to a minimum to lower your stress.
Go through your inbox in order.
It’s common to go through your inbox looking for the most high-priority emails to respond to first, but according to writer Brian Christian, that’s only going to end up being a huge time-waster. Instead, he says to start at the top then work your way down, deciding what needs answering and what doesn’t until you get all the way through.
Set a hard stop.
Saying you won’t check your email at night might work, but you know what works even better? Setting an actual cut-off time you’re not allowed to scan through your inbox any longer. Instead of leaving the rule so open-ended, having an exact moment to shut down and enjoy your evening email-free makes a huge difference in your stress levels. And for more ways to destress and de-tech, learn the 20 Genius Ways to Kill Time without a Smartphone.
No matter how many times you set to check your email throughout the day, you should never have on those notifications. Let’s be real: seeing those pings pop up will undeniably still stress you out. Simply turning them off and keeping your desktop and phone a little quieter makes all the difference in your wellbeing.
Keep your inbox clean and organized.
Just like you’d keep your workspace clean, you want to keep your inbox tidy, too. According to research out of the University of Michigan, one way to help manage email stress is to take advantage of some of the internal organizers available to you within your inbox. Create folders to organize your emails by category, label and prioritize your emails, and set up filters to organize emails as they come into your inbox.
Don’t read emails on the weekend.
If might not feel like you’re working over the weekend if you’re simply just keeping tabs on what emails are coming in, but by doing that, you’re not allowing yourself to truly shut off and reenergize for the week to come. If the temptation is always there, just delete your Gmail app from your phone on Friday after work and put it back on Monday. (Desperate times calls for desperate measures.) Or, set up a service that pauses your inbox.
Pause your inbox.
To pause your inbox, use a tool like Inbox Pause, which works for both Gmail and Outlook. Basically, it stops any new emails from coming in until you decide to allow them to again. Whether it’s during the day when you’re trying to enjoy your weekends, it will surely give you some peace of mind.
Take advantage of email-organized services.
If just looking in your inbox makes you feel overwhelmed because of the hundreds of unopened emails you still haven’t gone through, use a service like Sane Box. It helps you clean up with your inbox and organize what’s there, putting important emails where you can see them, sending distracting emails to a folder you can view later, and putting newsletters and subscriptions all in one place. Basically, it’ll become your stress-fighting BFF. And for more ways to get from under the tech-stress gun, learn the 20 Ways Social Media Stresses Us Out.
Sort your inbox via app.
One of the easiest ways to organize your inbox is doing so through Sortd, which lets you lay out everything side-by-side. With your inbox on the left and category lists on the right, you can drag emails into different customizable sections—like “to do” and “complete”—so you can get a less stressful visual on your inbox.
Don’t sleep on BCC.
Have you ever been caught in a web of emails you wanted absolutely nothing to do with? Sometimes if you make an introduction between two people, you end up on their thread for life and keep getting pings about things that don’t apply to you whatsoever. If you’re ever one of the people in the back-and-forth, save the third wheel some stress and move them to BCC—the “blind carbon copy”—after the introduction. And if you’re the one caught up in the madness, ask if the other people in the group can add you to BCC to keep you out of the loop.
Talk to your boss.
If not knowing what expectations your boss has about answering emails after hours is stressing you out, have a chat with them about what they’re looking for in response times, say researchers from Michigan State University. Hopefully they value work-life balance and don’t expect you to get back to them about things late at night or over the weekends, letting you fully relax when you’re off-duty. And if you want to make sure the convo goes swimmingly, prepare by boning up in the 15 Signs Your Boss Is a Psychopath.
Take an “email vacation.”
Sometimes it can be really hard to get things done just knowing your email is there waiting for you to scan through. If you need uninterrupted time to work on a project, tell your team at you’re taking an email vacation—disconnecting for half the day to focus and get your work done—suggest researchers from the University of Michigan.
Keep things organized by deadline.
If you constantly have a full inbox of emails just waiting to be responded to, it might be beneficial to start organizing them by deadline. According to marketing and sales expert Zach Hanlon, organizing your emails into folders based on priority—including today, this week, and this month or quarter—will keep you sane and less stressed. The second something comes in, stick it in a folder and deal with it when you have to.
Use the 3-Second Rule
Nope, this rule has nothing to do with food that’s fallen on the floor. According to John M. Grohol, Psy.D., people waste a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with certain emails. Instead, that process shouldn’t take more than three seconds. To keep your stress levels down, quickly decide if you want to reply, delete, archive, or save an email for later. It might seem like a rushed decision, but it will help you plow through your inbox a lot more quickly.
Use the schedule feature.
Sometimes when something isn’t urgent, you don’t feel like doing the back-and-forth emailing about it right away. Instead, get rid of some stress by writing it up and scheduling it to send out a few days later, recommend folks from the Harvard Business School. That way, you get it off your chest but you still get some time before you have to deal with it again.
Change “unread” emails to “read” in bulk
Once you hit a certain number of unread emails, there’s no going back: you’re never going to make your way through them all, and in all honesty, you’ve probably already addressed the ones that were super important anyway. To decrease the stress that comes from seeing “3,478 unread emails” pop up every day, change them to read in bulk. Every email system is different, but the process is generally pretty easy. (You can delete them in bulk too, but that might be even more stressful knowing they’re just… gone.)
Maintain a work-personal divide.
It’s hard to keep things straight when you have your work and personal emails all in one place. According to productivity expert Paula Rizzo, that’s why you should try your absolute hardest to keep them separate. “That way you’ll be in different mindsets when you look through each of them. It makes it much easier to manage when you know the types of emails you’ll see before you even open your inbox. It makes prioritizing much easier as well,” she says.
Feel free to ignore certain emails.
It might feel scary ignoring emails, but believe it or not, not everything needs to be responded to. If you take it from Harvard Business School researchers, it’s an easy way to get rid of some stress: If something is that important, it’s something that will come up again.
Don’t settle conflicts over email.
Dueling it out over email might sound a whole lot better than doing so face-to-face, but it never ends well. According to research out of the University of Michigan, it’s a bad idea to resolve conflicts in your inbox and will only cause you more stress in the end. Instead, either meet in person or call them up to get things handled in a more effective manner. And for more amazing office wisdom, learn the 60 Best 60-Second Productivity Hacks.
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