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7 Ways to Exorcise Your Email Demons

7 Ways to Exorcise Your Email Demons

Email has become such an integral part of our lives that it’s nearly impossible to go without it. You can’t simply ignore them and continue to function normally. Just like anything else, however, email needs to be managed and thoughtfully integrated into your schedule.

A popular productivity hack for managing email is the idea of an Inbox Zero. That means getting to a point where you have no emails left in your inbox. Unfortunately this is pretty unrealistic and exhausting. There is always going to be a new email in your inbox and if your goal is to get to Inbox Zero, chances are you’re going to spend your entire day just clearing out each mail as it comes in. A perpetual hamster wheel.

Instead of being glued to your phone or computer, watching for new messages like a hawk, here are seven ways to more realistically manage your emails:

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1. Be clear, concise, actionable, and relevant with emails. The idea here is to cut down on the back-and-forth. With ambiguous and open-ended emails you’re only going to get people emailing you back for clarification so you can expect a new email for every one you send out. You want the recipients to clearly understand your email and not have to respond.

2. Use Gmail’s priority inbox. It automatically tries to separate your important emails from everything else. Priority inbox learns which emails are important to you based on your emailing history and what emails you mark as important. In default mode, it automatically separates your mail into ‘Important and unread’, ‘Starred’ and ‘Everything else’, but you can easily change these settings to something that suits you. Filtering your email shows you exactly what you need, the rest is usually junk or distractions.

3. Don’t check your email too often. This is the biggest productivity killer. Every time your email distracts you, you’ll need about 5-15 minutes to recover your focus on the task you were doing. Set up regular but infrequent time slots to check your email. Some people try to power through work first thing in the morning and then slot in an email check before lunch. Then one last quick check near the end of the work day. Creating these time crunches helps to zero in on emails that require immediate attention.

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4. Use Boomerang so important emails don’t fall to the bottom of your inbox. It’s a pretty nifty plugin that allows you to schedule emails and reminds you to follow up. One particular feature allows you to remove emails from your inbox and bring them back to the top at a later, more convenient time. The Mailbox App for your smartphone also has this feature.

5. Receive less email by sending less email – practice what you preach. Drawing from Point 1, sending email means you will be receiving email. So if you send less, you’ll receive less. Not only are you helping yourself but you’re helping the recipient form better habits too – everyone wins.

6. Have an email routine. Besides when you decide to check your email, how long you’re allowed to spend reading or writing should also be limited. By setting up a strict routine you’ll know when your time is up and to return to your immediate to-do list instead of being side tracked by a supposedly urgent issue. If it is really urgent, you would likely receive a call.

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7. Speaking of calls, don’t handle controversial or highly sensitive topics through email. Email is the worst medium to communicate emotion. All the recipient sees is text so they tend to fill in the context and emotions around an email themselves. If you have something very controversial, you are better off discussing this over the phone or in person to avoid misinterpretations and miscommunication.

Ultimately we need to realize that email is simply one of the many tools we use to communicate with people. It’s important not to think of it as our job and become a slave to it. By using these tips, you’ll be able to manage it more effectively and be more productive. Get rid of those email demons once and for all.

Do you have any other tips for managing email? Let us know in the comments below!

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Last Updated on October 23, 2018

How to Eliminate Work Stress When You’re Stressed to the Max

How to Eliminate Work Stress When You’re Stressed to the Max

Workplace stress is a modern epidemic. More than one-third of American workers experience chronic work stress. This is estimated to cost American businesses up to $300 billion a year in lost work hours and medical bills.[1]

Clearly, if you’re suffering from work stress – you’re far from alone. But, work stress isn’t inevitable.

In this article, I’m going to help you identify the root cause of your stress and suggest the most suitable ways to cope with job stress so you can become a happy and productive worker again.

Where Work Stress Comes From

Certain factors tend to go hand-in-hand with work-related stress. The causes of stress include:

  • Too much work – you feel overwhelmed by your work and find yourself saying: “There are not enough hours in the day!”
  • The job is too easy, not challenging or inspiring – this is where boredom (which is stressful) sets in.
  • Pressure from co-workers or lack of social support – colleagues are not helpful or only care about their own tasks.
  • Little praise and lots of criticism – this is where a lousy manager uses constant criticism to ‘try’ to motivate you.
  • Very demanding or competitive working culture – sales departments often fit this category.
  • Not having enough control over job-related decisions – this is when people try to micro-manage you.
  • High expectations on yourself or seeking perfection – while it’s good to do your best, being a perfectionist can be a powerful stress generator.
  • Low salary – if you work hard but receive slim financial rewards, you may start to feel downhearted, frustrated and stressed.

The Negative Effects of Stress on Your Mind and Body

Chronic stress is bad news for your mental health and physical health. These are some health symptoms of stress:[2]

    If stress hormones are triggered in your body for extended periods, they can lead to increased physical aging. This is because stress makes your cells look and act older – and this is reflected in your physical appearance.[3]

    In addition to the negative effects on your body, stress also has a significant influence on your brain – negatively impacting your daily performance.

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    I recommend you watch the 4-minute video below to see just how stress can wreak havoc on your brain and your performance:

    How to Cope with Work Stress (A Step-By-Step Guide)

    You don’t need to be a victim of work stress. Here’s how to manage stress in the workplace:

    1. Set aside some time for planning

    If work has become too much for you, and you’re constantly falling behind… stop! Instead of trying and failing to catch up, you’d be much better off spending some time thinking about your goals and how your prioritize your tasks.

    Learn how to set clear goals with this step-by-step guide.

    For instance, if your initial goal is just to get on top of your work (probably for the first time in months), then take 10 minutes to think clearly and deeply about how you can achieve this. Most likely, you’ll be able to come up with tasks that you need to complete to reach your goal. And once your goal and tasks are clear in your mind, you’ll be ready for the second step.

    2. Align your tasks with your goal

    Just knowing your goal and associated tasks is not enough. Many people reach this stage but still fall behind with their work and fail to achieve their goals.

    The secret is to understand which of your tasks should be high priority and which ones can be done when you have spare time.

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    For example, checking your inbox every 20 minutes may seem to be a productive task for you, but in reality it acts as a constant distraction and productivity killer. Instead, you’d be better off setting aside 30 minutes in the morning to check your emails and 30 minutes in the afternoon to do the same.

    By doing this, you’ll free up the bulk of your day for tasks that can help you reach your goal. These tasks are likely to be things like: writing a business proposal, creating a PowerPoint presentation, and finishing an important project.

    These tips on how to prioritize will help you align your tasks with your goals and work 10X more efficiently.

    3. Remove, change or accept the stressors

    How to tackle specific work stressors? I recommend the following method that WellCast introduced:[4]

    Take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. At the top, write remove in the first column, change in the second and accept in the third.

      Next, think of the stressors that are getting to you the most. Perhaps it’s your paycheck; it might be way smaller than you’d like or feel that you deserve. Don’t worry, this is your chance to break free from the stress surrounding your low pay.

      Think for a few moments, which would you prefer:

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      • To remove yourself from the company
      • To try to change your salary by asking for a pay rise
      • To accept that your salary is okay for you

      You may be surprised at what thoughts come into your mind. Don’t reject them, but allow yourself time to be clear on how you’d like to proceed.

      If the status quo feels good to you, then write “paycheck” in the accept column. If you decide you want to increase your salary but stay in the same company, write “paycheck” in the change column. And finally, if you decide the time is right to seek a new opportunity at a different organization, then write “paycheck” in the remove column.

      By being decisive in this way, you’ll immediately feel freer and in control of your destiny. And your stress levels will begin to trend downwards. All that remains is to set yourself a clear goal of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to do this.(Luckily, steps #1 and #2 above will help you out!)

      Of course, if you have multiple work stressors, then use your remove, change or accept sheet to work through all of them. It will be time VERY well spent.

      4. Create positive relationships at work

      One key to improving your ability to manage stress is being able to accept help from others. Not only does it alleviate negative circumstances by simply distracting you and creating a buffer between daily tasks and their negative connection, it will provide a sense of support and relief.

      Make an effort to create friendships with your colleagues. Go to the after-work happy hour or just ask a colleague out for coffee at lunchtime. Not only will you have someone to confide in, but you will start to associate positive feelings to work.

      Forming a healthy relationship with your manager or supervisor is also a good way to alleviate stress. Positive, two-way conversations about where you stand in your job, being honest about how you feel, and working together to make a plan of action in terms of improved work conditions and expectations are paramount. This will lead to opening up and receiving the necessary resources you need to support or help you.

      5. Take time out for yourself

      Anyone can get overwhelmed when stress occurs at work, and this can spill into other areas of your life. This is why it’s important to clock out mentally from your job from time to time.

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      Take time off to relax and unwind in order to regain your energy and come back to work invigorated. Make sure you actually do something you enjoy like spending time with your kids or partner, or visit that country you’ve always wanted to explore.

      If taking time off work isn’t possible in the midst of your stress, take scheduled breaks throughout your day. Sit quietly somewhere or do some stretches to get your blood flowing like in the example below:

      6. Take mindful action towards your health

      The irony of stress is that your healthy habits can take a backseat. Maintaining and even improving your health will keep your stress under control. Here are some ways to keep you physically fit:

      • Eat healthy foods. Make sure your diet is full of foods that provide your body with sufficient nutrients. Eat more fruits and green vegetables, whole foods, omega-3 rich fish, and seeds such as flax, chia and hemp. These types of food ensure your body is working optimally to cope with its stress mechanisms.
      • Avoid unhealthy foods. This is obvious, but it’s these kinds of food you reach for in times of stress and negativity. High fat foods such as cheese and red meat cause sluggishness and tiredness. Foods high in refined sugars like biscuits, chocolate bars, and bread can be convenient snacks, but they cause you to crash and burn. Same with caffeinated drinks such as coffee and sodas – these are just ‘band aid’ habits that interfere with your ability to sleep.
      • Exercise regularly. Endorphins are the best for counteracting stress, and what better way to release them than doing physical exercise. Exercise creates a distraction and helps you get your thoughts back together in an orderly way. Start a new exercise regime – whether it’s running, swimming, cycling or walking to work. Getting your blood and endorphins flowing will make you feel happier.
      • Get enough sleep. Make getting 8 hours sleep a priority. When we’re stressed it can sometimes feel hard to get to sleep but sleep deprivation only exaggerates our current stress. A well-rested mind is able to find solutions to problems more easily and reacts better to daily stressors.

      Final Thoughts

      Everyone encounters stress at work. It’s a natural and normal human reaction. The difference between letting the stress overcome you and coping with it is getting a head start by creating a positive environment and lifestyle.

      Counteracting stress is both an inside and outside job. Focusing on improving your health will create a positive mind able to react better. Forming positive relationships with certain people around you will give you emotional support.

      Beat stress with the right mindset!

      Featured photo credit: whoislimos via unsplash.com

      Reference

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