Even as far back as 2000, there were reports that people were increasingly suffering from “e-mail stress”. Anyone who uses e-mail regularly for work will know what this is – the tyranny of the inbox that seems to keep filling-up with more questions, requests, meeting arrangements and orders whether you are at your desktop or not. In the worst cases, being away from your desktop for just a few minutes can leave you feeling like you’ve been hit by an avalanche on your return.
Nowadays, e-mail is ever more ubiquitous (think increasing numbers of laptops, Blackberries, WiFi connections and mobile devices) and e-mail stress is as big a problem as ever. As The Guardian reports:
Workers are suffering from the growing problem of ’email stress’ as they struggle to cope with an unending tide of messages, new research reveals. Employees are becoming tired, frustrated and unproductive after constantly monitoring the electronic messages that keep interrupting them as they try to concentrate at work.
Although increasing quantities and the ubiquity of e-mail nowadays are major factors in stress, the study found that it is the breaks in concentration that e-mails regularly cause that do the real damage. Karen Renaud of the study said:
Email is the thing that now causes us the most problems in our working lives. It’s an amazing tool, but it’s got out of hand. Email harries you. You want to know what’s in there, especially if it’s from a family member or friends, or your boss, so you break off what you are doing to read the email. The problem is that when you go back to what you were doing, you’ve lost your chain of thought and, of course, you are less productive. People’s brains get tired from breaking off from something every few minutes to check emails. The more distracted you are by distractions, including email, then you are going to be more tired and less productive.
This is an interesting perspective. Of course, most employers think that the more e-mail employees have to deal with, the more productive they will be but these findings suggest that actually the opposite can be true.
So are there any tools out there that can help make your e-mailing just a little bit less stressful? Assuming that most people work with Outlook, one of the best things you can do, before you try anything, is simply backup your mails with Genie Outlook Backup. Once you’ve done this, now feel free to experiment with some Outlook extensions and add-ons to improve your e-mail management such as Bells and Whistles for Outlook. This extension includes up to 20 organisational tools to help you better manage your mail such as an auto-responder, templates and attachment reminder. If it’s duplicate e-mails that are driving you mad, then try Duplicate Killer Merger for Outlook which removes and merges duplicated e-mails in one go.
The best tips to reduce e-mail stress are always the simple ones however. Some of my favourite have been put together by Web Worker Daily and Psychcentral. Their advice includes filtering important e-mail, setting aside time per day to deal with e-mails and my favourite, stop checking it all the time (or all together depending on how far you want to go!).