How to avoid becoming overwhelmed with email, according to one psychologist group

IT is among the job sectors experiencing the most email pressure, a survey has found. What to do? Turn it off, the specialists say.

artificial intelligence concept with brain on digital circuitry
Credit: Thinkstock

Leaving your email on all day is a toxic cause of stress, a psychological researcher says in new findings.

The emotional responses we get from reading email, coupled with the need to control the deluge, means people are getting stressed out and consumed by pressure, the Future Work Centre reckons. And IT as a sector experiences some of the worst.

One solution is to turn it all off from time to time during the day. In particular, the push mechanism.

The psychology group also recommends asking yourself if you really need to be checking email early morning and late at night.

Anxiety

Perceived email pressure is a scourge, the organization found in the survey.

"We found a strong relationship between using 'push' email and perceived email pressure. This means that people who automatically receive email on their devices were more likely to report higher perceived email pressure," the Future Work Center says.

Its study of 2,000 Brits looked into attitudes towards daily email use and aspects of peoples' personalities. It found "unintended consequences" to the useful medium.

Negative affect on home life

For example, email can cause discontent in the home, with family members experiencing problems in relationships stemming from being too involved in emails. This work-life balance issue affects relationships and causes arguments, the researchers found.

"My partner was not happy with me and we ended up arguing!" one respondent said about trying to stay on top of emails while on vacation.

"You'd think I'd be thankful to get to the office but when I am there I can't stop thinking about what will be waiting for me when I get home," was another response from an email obsessive having construction work done on a home.

"It's making the whole family really irritable," that individual said.

No one-size fits all

The Future Work Centre deduces that much of the problem is related to how personalities are different. While some can switch off, others can't.

"It may be that some aspects of personality leave us with a tendency to check email more frequently," the researchers say.

Others may "respond with anger as soon as we sense disrespect in an email we receive," for example.

But some do have a "tendency to use email more effectively as an aid to our own personal productivity." That's probably the best way to approach it.

Lower self-esteem

And indeed, it's personality that defines whether people perceive pressure. "If you have control and confidence, you can create boundaries," the psychologists say.

People with "low core self-evaluation" do badly with email, the report says. It impacts them worse. Those with higher self-esteem don't let it affect them.

Gain a sense of control

It's not an insurmountable problem, the psychologists think. Launching email applications "when you want to use email and closing it down for periods," is one solution, the psychologists say.

"If you find yourself distracted by the constant pinging of newly arriving emails, consider updating your device to only download emails when you instruct it," the report says. "This can provide a sense of control."

Turning off notifications on your devices is also an option.

Now, if you'll excuse me I just need to go email my client that I won't be reading any more emails today.

This article is published as part of the IDG Contributor Network. Want to Join?

To comment on this article and other Network World content, visit our Facebook page or our Twitter stream.
Related:
Must read: Hidden Cause of Slow Internet and how to fix it
Notice to our Readers
We're now using social media to take your comments and feedback. Learn more about this here.