Control your work email to regain control of your life
Digital environment has blurred lines between work and home
Once upon a time, work was work and home was home. There was a clear boundary between the company or the office, and one's home and personal time. Home was your castle and you could count on your moat to keep you safe from the outside world.
The digital environment has blurred the boundary between work and home. In corporate and professional America, everyone is on the grid 24/7. But there are consequences to being always connected. Let me explain.
- When you access email and send text messages and follow social media, you deplete the glucose in your brain as you hop from one task to the next. You may be at home, but your brain is working and it will become fatigued.
- When you access email, you feel a sense of accomplishment. That's because there's a surge of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is one of the feel-good hormones, so you're rewarded for accessing email, which leads you to do it again and again.
So how can you deal with the digital tsunami threatening to drown you? Here's what some experts recommend:
- Limit email time. Within reason, access your email only periodically, such as first thing in the morning, mid-morning and late in the day. Otherwise, your day may hijacked by someone else's agenda.
- Be smart about how you work. The maximum time for focus and concentration is approximately 90 minutes. So set the clock and at the end of 90 minutes move onto something else. Let me give you a personal example: I am a piano player. I try to commit to one hour of practice a day. That means sitting down at the piano for 60 minutes. When the alarm goes off, my practice time is over.
- Don't skimp on sleep. You can't be effective if you're sleep-deprived. It has become a badge of honor to tell the world that you can get by on four to six hours of sleep. That may apply to a miniscule portion of the population. In general most people need seven to eight hours of restorative sleep.
- Make a plan and stick to it. Either you orchestrate your time, or someone will orchestrate it for you. This means sitting down at a quiet moment, perhaps early in the morning or late in the day, and writing out a list of critical tasks. Use your time to work on these items rather than allowing yourself to be distracted by the latest headline or drawn into workplace dramas.