Think about how many emails you send and receive in a day. Now think about how much time all that emailing takes up. Now factor in all the time you waste worrying about emailing – what should I say? Why haven’t they responded? Should I follow up? Was I too formal?
That’s a whole lot of time, so it’s no surprise that people all over the world are suffering from email anxiety. With an estimated 306.4 billion emails sent and received each day in 2020 alone, with this number only expected to increase, we need to get the best of email anxiety before it gets the best of us.
So, we’ve put together a list of seven simple ways to deal with email anxiety and the tools you need to do it. But before we get to that, let’s take a look at what email anxiety even is.
What is Email Anxiety?
Email anxiety is the fear of opening up and looking through your inbox, paired with an inability to stay away from it. It’s the fear of sending, receiving, or writing emails. This fear doesn’t just mean during your working hours. It means all day, every day. It means that when you awake in the morning, you feel the call of your inbox and the cold-sweat-inducing dread of wondering what’s there.
It can quickly cause massive amounts of stress, which over time can cause, among other things:
Mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, in a vicious cycle
Obesity and other eating disorders
Permanent hair loss
Why Does Email Cause Anxiety?
Email is especially good at causing anxiety because it prompts an anxiety response at every stage of a message’s lifecycle:
- Before sending – you get nervous about sending an important message, how the person will receive it, if they will reply, if you’re formal enough, etc.
- Waiting for a response – you worry about if you said something wrong, whether the recipient got the message, what they’re thinking, etc.
- When you get an email/response – now you’re nervous about opening it! What will it say? Is it going to be the message you want?
- Replying to an email – and then you go back to the start.
What’s worse, you’re going through this cycle on repeat all day, every day. It’s estimated that the average office worker receives about 121 emails per day and sends around 40. That’s dozens and dozens of opportunities for email anxiety – no wonder people are freaking out over their inboxes!
How to Tackle Email Anxiety
Email anxiety is a thorn in the side of any worker who has to open their inbox, and it’s about time that we had it beat. So to take back control of your anxiety and your inbox, we’ve put together these seven tips.
Stop Bouncing Between Emails and Other Work
It can be incredibly easy to be working on a task, hear the ping of an email notification, and switch to your inbox to “just have a quick check.” But, unfortunately, it’s never just a quick check. A single distraction such as an email can take you more than 23 minutes to refocus on your original task.
This creates a spiral of us not getting things done, then not answering emails, then not getting things done, all building on our anxiety and stress. We then learn to associate this stress with opening emails and our inboxes.
The simple solution is to stop switching between tasks!
Try carving your day into work blocks, whereby you set aside certain times of the day for responding to emails and other times for deep-focus work.
For example, you could have a schedule that looks like this:
This can cut down on what is known as context switching. Another simple way to reduce context switching is by grouping all your tools in one place. Spike is a digital workspace built on top of your email that brings together all the productivity tools you need, from a synced calendar to collaborative Online Notes to Video Conferencing.
With everything in one place, there’s no need to switch!
Get to the Point to Help Yourself (and Your Team!)
Getting an email that goes on and on, with line after line of unnecessary information, will inevitably make the recipient mark it as “unread” and save it another time. Not only does this cause them anxiety, but it also means your emails won’t get a timely response, which leads to anxiety for you as well.
To make sure this doesn’t happen, always be as brief as possible. For example, before writing an email, think:
What is the purpose of this email?
What information does the recipient need from me?
How am I ensuring action is taken?
Answer those questions and combine them into an email that is no longer than half a dozen sentences. For example:
Get a copy of Wednesday’s marketing report
Which report do I need, and when do I need it by?
One clear call to action
I hope you’re doing well.
Could you send me a copy of Wednesday’s marketing report? I need a couple of hours to review it ahead of a meeting I have at 3 pm tomorrow.
All the best,
Use Templates to Reduce Email Sending Anxiety
Much of our email anxiety can come from drafting and sending emails, but if you think about it, a big slice of the emails you send in a day will probably be almost identical. So why create anxiety by writing them out each time?
Instead, create a template for those frequent emails, make sure you have it perfect the first time, and then use it over and over again! Then, you no longer need to worry about if the tone is correct or if you remembered to include that critical link – just click, edit, send!
Many Folders Create More Work
It may come as a surprise, but breaking down your emails into many different folders inside of folders can make things a little confusing. Rather than negating anxiety by simplifying, you’re just forcing yourself to spend more time searching through trees of messages.
A study found that it’s far more efficient to search your emails instead, by several times over! So, to avoid spending unnecessary anxiety-inducing time scrolling folders, use an email client with a powerful search, like Spike’s Advanced Search, which finds anything, anywhere, without ever opening an email.
What’s more, Spike has done away with old-school folder trees that only serve to bog you down in email anxiety. Messages are instead auto-sorted into Priority – that’s everything necessary – and “Other,” which is everything else. This allows you to focus on what’s important without being overwhelmed or creating giant folder trees!
Have Clear Unavailability – Set Boundaries
To not think about emails all the time, you need to create times when you know you won’t have any to deal with. This means setting clear boundaries about when you can be contacted and, more importantly, when you can’t. Clarify with colleagues when you will not be responding to emails.
For example, never outside of working hours, and not after 2 pm, so you can focus on longer pieces of work. If your whole team knows this, you don’t have to worry about emails piling up in your inbox in the afternoon, and they don’t have to worry about replying right away.
Fear not; your company communication won’t go downhill. It just means you’ll be moving towards asynchronous communication. It’s becoming increasingly popular with dispersed workforces as it allows people to respond in their own time and respect off hours.
Don’t Go Shopping When You’re Hungry
We wholeheartedly recommend you to take this literally, but it also means not to let your immediate needs, emotions, and ideas get the better of you. We all get emails that frustrate us, and they can be a huge source of email anxiety.
However, what makes that anxiety a thousand times worse is when we quickly fire off a response in anger and then have to wait for an answer. You’ll probably cool off after a minute or so, but that response could take days. Days of wondering what the recipient is thinking, doing, saying – days of dreaded email anxiety!
A simple way to avoid falling into this trap is to always wait for a little why before responding to any emails that have elicited a strong reaction in you. Spike simplifies this using the Snooze function, whereby you can “snooze” an email to pop back up at a time and date that suits you. This gives you the breathing room you need to write a more rational response.
Create Healthier Task Management Methods
We tend to use our unread emails as a semi-informal to-do list – have you never found yourself marking something as “unread” and saving it for later?
Stop doing that!
Stop putting so much pressure on your email to reduce your email anxiety – it’s a communication tool. Instead, create a to-do list or other task management method, and stick to it. Digital tools such as Spike can help achieve this by providing powerful interactive, sharable To-Do Lists and Tasks with trackable progress right within your inbox.
Sometimes responding to an email can be a task in itself, so don’t be afraid to snooze an email until later and add your response to your To-Do List. This way, you can stay focused and avoid email anxiety.
An End to Email Phobia
Your email should be working for you, not giving you anxiety. Having a whole heap of communication is hard to avoid in the modern workplace, but keeping these seven tips in mind can help you ward off any email anxiety headed your way. Just remember to:
Stop switching between other tasks and your emails
Create templates to reduce email sending anxiety
Rid yourself of folders, get a powerful search
Have clear unavailability
Stop, breath, and think before sending emotional emails
Get a task management system!
Check out the Spike Blog today if you’re interested in other tips and tricks to stay level-headed at work. Also, if you’ve got any practices that help you with email anxiety, let us know by tweeting us @SpikeNowHQ.
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