You know that feeling on Monday morning… that dread.
On Friday you decided that you were checking out for the weekend. You would step away and relax and you definitely would not check your emails. Not even a sneak peak. Not even the little snippet that your phone gives you when the notification comes in.
But Sunday evening rolls around and that sinking, sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach begins to gurgle, awakened by the noise of the train that’s hurtling towards you… Monday. And you know (although you haven’t checked) that there’s a monster waiting for you beneath the little envelope icon. And your heart thumps…
Email dread is real and most of us have had it at some stage. If you haven’t… I envy you. Having experienced it for a prolonged period myself, I’ve outlined some of my thoughts below.
It’s only an email…
We are effectively primates sitting in front of pixels organised in patterns that have become familiar to us from millennia of social conditioning. For most emails, the minuity of their importance is incalculably small in the greater scheme of things.
Don’t get me wrong, the emails you’re sweating over could be very important right now. But what about in five years time? Will you feel the same way? What about the emails you were sweating over a few years ago… Can you even remember them now?
What’s actually causing your email anxiety?
If you struggle with email anxiety regularly and intensely then it may be wise to dig deeper and try to find it’s cause. You can start by being aware of the types of email that make the hairs on your neck bristle. For me, I began to see a pattern in the types of emails that were triggering it. The obvious ones were – URGENT!!! SITE DOWN. The less obvious ones were client review email threads that were getting out of control. You know the ones… The ones with 50 tasks in them from 5 different stakeholders with “See my comments in red” appended to the top. These emails were taking hours to get back to which was having a knock on effect on my productivity for the day.
Is email the right tool for the job?
In the history of information technology, I think it’s fair to classify email as ancient. In business, it’s become our default tool for communication and for good reason. It’s stable and accessible and has withstood the test of time. But that doesn’t necessarily make it the best tool for the job. You wouldn’t send a group email to everyone in your network to tell them how your weekend went? If you do… please stop. You should use social media for this.
If you are using emails to manage projects, then it may be worth looking in to project management software.
Start categorizing your emails and ask yourself… Is there a better way to do this?
My email anxiety, and a deeper dive in to it’s causes, made me realize that email wasn’t the right tool for reviewing websites. This is what lead me to creating DogNotDuck, a website annotations tool that lets you leave feedback directly on the website you are working on. This enabled me to kill those long, out-of-context email threads. Click the button below to see a demo on this page.
On a final note, if you are suffering from anxiety, email related or otherwise, it’s always good to talk these things out with an expert.