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Monday, 05 May 2014 09:13

Confessions from an Email Addict

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Hi. My name is Dina, and I'm an email addict. I have a compulsion to try to keep up with my emails. Try as I might, it just doesn't happen. Lately, I have been feeling that my addiction is impacting my work productivity. I have three email accounts. Gmail, Four Quadrant Living, and Yahoo, all serving different purposes. Trying to keep up with all of them feels like a full-time job.

Are you a fellow online addict? Perhaps your drug of choice is not email, but rather posting on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, or texting. There are so many ways to feed our addiction—smart phones, tablets, laptops, desktops. For me, my iPhone and MacBook Pro are my fuel for addiction. Are your addictions impacting you? At work? At home? In relationships? In your own serenity?

For months now, I have been trying to catch up on my emails, but it's a never ending battle. I must remember the wise words of Richard Carlson in his Don't Sweat the Small Stuff... and It's all Small Stuff:

"Remind yourself that when you die, your 'in-basket' won't be empty."

I read this book over 15 years ago, but this idea resonated with me so much that I always remember it. As hard as I try to empty my in-basket, it's just going to keep filling up. Striving to empty the basket makes me feel like a hamster running on a wheel. Working hard and going nowhere. And, it's taking away from more important areas in my life that need attention.

As I'm writing this blog, I'm reminded of Stephen Covey's "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People." Covey explains the difference between "urgent" and "important" work. There are four boxes we can be in as we work (this can apply to our personal and professional lives):

1. Urgent and important

  • crises
  • pressing problems
  • deadline driven projects, meetings, preparations

2. Not urgent and important

  • Preparation
  • Prevention
  • Values clarification
  • Relationship building
  • Empowerment

3. Urgent and not important

  • Interruptions, some phone calls
  • Some mail, some reports
  • Some meetings
  • Many proximate, pressing matters
  • Many popular activities

4. Not urgent and not important

  • Trivia, busywork
  • Some phone calls
  • Time waster
  • "Escape" activities
  • Irrelevant mail
  • Excessive TV

Covey says that the best use of our time focuses on boxes 1 and 2. All of the 7 habits of highly effective people reside in #2. He says that there are genuine #1 crises, but that by trying to stay in #2, you can keep the #1 issues at a minimum.

What keeps you from spending more time in #2? Perhaps you say "yes" to too many people? Feel paralyzed because you don't know where to start? For me, it's my compulsion to clear my emails, no matter how not urgent and not important they are.

Think about why you feel so tied to your ____ (fill in your social network or device of choice). Is it filling a void? Is it giving you something you are not otherwise getting in your relationships? Are you bored? Is it a compulsion (e.g. the need to have an empty in-box)? Spending time thinking about why you are doing it could lead to some personal insights.

If you feel like your devices are getting in the way of other areas of your life, join me for the month of May and make a change—big or small. Here are the changes I am going to make to spend more time in box 2, on the areas of my life that are important and not urgent.

  • I am going to turn off the email notification on my laptop for periods of time during the work day, and only turn it back on at break times. Usually I have my email open all day which means I get notified by a red number at the bottom of my screen when a new email comes in. No matter how engrossed I am with the task at hand, I invariably leave my important work and check the typically unimportant email, losing my productivity. While I have been writing this blog, the email notification has been off. Typically it would be on and I would probably still be writing the second paragraph of this blog because I would be sucked into the email vortex.
  • I'm going to try to not check my iPhone email first thing in the morning. Usually, first thing in the morning, before I'm even fully awake, I reach for my iPhone and check my email. The problem is that most of the time, there will be an email that I will want to respond to, which gets me out of bed and not starting the day I want to. Instead, I want to wake up, have my Meditation with Hollywood time, eat breakfast, start work with an important project, and then check my email mid-morning. I want to take back control of my work day.
  • I think I'm pretty good in my social interactions in not being tied to my iPhone, but I could probably improve in this area too, so for the rest of the month, I will consciously watch my use of my iPhone when I am with others.

I'd love to hear from my fellow connected addicts. What is your conduit and addiction of choice? Do you want to join me for the rest of the month in making a small change for better productivity, enhanced relationships, and more serenity?


Please share your questions and comments below.


Dina Colman, MA, MBA is an award-winning author, healthy living coach, and founder of Four Quadrant Living. Dina has a private practice helping clients live healthier and happier lives. Her Amazon Top 100 book, Four Quadrant Living: Making Healthy Living Your New Way of Life, guides readers to make healthy living a part of their daily lives, leading to greater health, vitality, and happiness. Contact Dina at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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