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Email is Not the Problem – You Are

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Email is Not the Problem – You Are

Can you count the hours you spent on emails this month? How about this week, or even today? I’m pretty sure you can’t.

In the maelstrom of our office and personal life, email has become a cornerstone of our daily activity for good and bad. Spending countless hours checking email has become a habit ingrained in our subconscious. Checking and managing email has the potential to become a sinkhole for just about anyone.

In 2013, the typical corporate email user sends and receives an estimate of 115 emails; that’s roughly 2.5 hours every day spent only on writing them. That doesn’t leave the “typical corporate email user” much time to do anything else and is why we must learn how to process email better.

“Our biggest job is to define what our work is.” Peter Drucker

Keep in mind that email is just a tool for doing your job; it’s not meant to replace your job specs and objectives.

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Measuring and monitoring your email habits will bring much needed structure, and since we’re dealing with a considerable chunk of your day, it will also raise your productivity.

We might start with the best of intentions, but unless we deal with some “hidden” forces, the battle won’t be won. There are a few things that you need to know about your email habits — things that aren’t entirely within your control…

Force number #1: Our lizard brain

There’s a part of our brain that always strives for perfection. It drives meticulous behaviors and ultimately, makes us waste disproportionate amounts of time on tasks that are sometimes trivial in nature — our lizard brain.

“The lizard brain is on high alert to make sure that everything is okay. The lizard brain can’t rest until it knows that everyone likes us, that no one is offended, that all graphs are ticking up and to the right, and the future is assured. But of course, the future (and the present) isn’t perfect. It can’t be.” Seth Godin

By the way, that’s why we mark emails as unread. We want the conditions to be perfect when we open our email, and “the here and now” is never perfect, so maybe later. Try to understand, the conditions will never be perfect, so you’ll have to make things work for you. That’s why you should never open an email, and mark it “unread;” make sure you only touch it once and process it (coming to you from the GTD Master – David Allen).

Force Number #2: FOMO – Fear of missing out

Fear of missing out, or FOMO, is a behavior we’ve cultivated through years of evolution. Evolution, through natural selection, preferred the “FOMO gene” and pushed it up the ladder because a hunter-gatherer with FOMO is a better hunter-gatherer. Curiosity and a need to reap as many rewards as possible brought us to this point in time but, alas, nowadays, FOMO doesn’t serve us as well.

FOMO is one of the major reasons we open emails the second we receive them. Our Smartphones (or perhaps I should call them something else…) even help distract us with sounds and flashing lights each time a new email or text message arrives. Yes…text messages are just another form of email — the name doesn’t trick me.

Sure, you’re probably telling yourself that it’s just your way of managing your tasks better. But you fail to realize that you are managing nothing! Your emails and texts are managing you! This may be a key driver in missing deadlines, failing to set priorities, and not completing tasks, which ultimately may prevent you from sleeping well at night, i.e. the Zeigarnik effect.

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That’s why you need to schedule opening emails during a designated time frame and no more than two to three times per day.

Force number #3: Depression

Yes, I said it…Depression. A study published on 2011 by Sriram Chellappan from the Missouri University of Science and Technology suggests that people suffering from depression engage in a very high level of email usage.

“Study participants with depressive symptoms tended to engage in very high e-mail usage. This perhaps was to be expected: research by the psychologists Janet Morahan-Martin and Phyllis Schumacher has shown that frequent checking of e-mail may relate to high levels of anxiety, which itself correlates with depressive symptoms.” Sriram Chellappan NYTimes 06/12.

This doesn’t mean that if you spend hours upon hours on emails, you’re suffering from depression; it means that people who are suffering from depression tend to spend more time on emails. Why? Because you may be looking for ways to lift your spirit, and your brain remembers how to occupy you in pursuit of online happiness.

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To make things worse, we also find ourselves nowadays surrounded by environmental forces influencing our ability to process emails, like increased email consumption via mobile, which prolongs the amount of time we spend on emails.

Add to the mix an unsatisfied lizard brain, a FOMO tendency, and the above mentioned Zeigarnik effect and you get one depressive concoction that makes things worse for people who already suffer from depression, so be aware.

Historical statistics show that the amount of emails we process on a daily basis is only going to increase as technology progresses, challenging us both physically and mentally. Preparing ourselves and learning about ways to process emails more efficiently and in a more organized way is a must if we want to be more productive!

More by this author

Haim Pekel

Haim Pekel is an entrepreneur and shares tips on productivity and entrepreneurship at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 13, 2022

15 Best Places for Expats to Live (And Why)

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15 Best Places for Expats to Live (And Why)

Many of us dream of living abroad but can often be scared to make such a big change to our routine lifestyles and leave our home countries behind. Daunting as it may be, living abroad can be a rewarding and fulfilling endeavor and can give you the quality of life you have been looking for.

From a warmer climate to a more easy going way of life, there are many foreign countries favored by expats who stay for a long time – and sometimes forever. Taking into consideration livings standards, opportunities and social aspects, here are our top 15 best places to live as an expat and why.

1. Thailand

A hot spot for expats, the ‘land of smiles’ as it’s commonly known offers expats a tropical climate, a huge array of sandy beaches and islands to explore, and a rich culture. The cost of living in Thailand is extremely low, and when combined with the friendly tax system means that disposable income can be very high.

Bangkok, Thailand’s capital city, offers expats great employment opportunities.

2. Switzerland

Another popular destination for expats, Switzerland offers exciting employment packages and a high standard of living. It’s great for those who love the outdoors, as there are many beautiful lakes, mountains to hike in and skiing in the winter. The school standards for expats are also excellent, making it appealing for those with children. English is also widely spoken so day-to-day living can be stress free.

Unemployment in Switzerland is low and expats moving here don’t need to worry too much about finding a job before they arrive.

3. Australia

Many foreigners who visit Australia don’t want to leave as it offers a great quality of life, beautiful beaches and a warm climate. Making friends in Australia is easy too, due to the lack of language barrier and the large number of expats who already live here. Australia is a great place to move to if you have children because of its wide range of schooling possibilities and recreational outdoor activities.

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Low population levels and high quality of life are two of the main reasons expats choose Australia as a place to live.

4. Singapore

Expats in Singapore can benefit from generous financial packages, great career opportunities and low tax rates. Although education is expensive here, it is rated one of the top places for raising children abroad due to the quality of the education system and the array of schools.

Public transport such as buses and MRT (Mass Rapid Transit) are cheap and very reliable in Singapore.

5. South Korea

South Korea offers expats a unique range of opportunities and a very different way of living. Jobs for expats are easy to find and usually very well paid, with apartments provided by the employer on the most part making living costs even lower. There are also many tight-knit expat communities in South Korea, making it easy to socialize and meet new friends. The excellent education system is also a pro for families wanting to move to this culture-rich country.

South Korea has a cheap public healthcare system and offers great medical care, with most doctors speaking English.

6. New Zealand

New Zealand is constantly on the lookout for skilled workers to expedite to the country – especially those under the age of 30 – and skilled migrants can be granted a stay for up to five years. It offers a good climate and although income levels can be lower than other countries, quality of life is high, with its awe-inspiring scenery, low crime rate and state sponsored healthcare.

New Zealand is great for those looking for a laid back and active outdoors lifestyle.

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7. Canada

Its national healthcare system, friendly locals and very high quality of life are just a few of the reason expats choose Canada as a place to live. It’s very welcoming to expats and skills shortages encourage foreigners to move here in order for the country to grow economically. It’s easy for expats to feel comfortable quickly in Canada due to its multicultural environment.

Canada was largely unaffected by the economic crisis, making it a very popular country for expats.

8. Qatar

Qatar is becoming increasingly popular among expats with an estimated 500 new arrivals every day. The salaries are generous and are tax free too, making disposable income very high. Car and housing allowances are part of many remuneration packages, and education for your children and airfares are often included.

The cost of living is lower in Qatar than in other UAE countries but salaries can still be just as generous.

9. Hong Kong

Where east truly meets the west, this bustling island has a population of over seven million people. If you’re looking for a fast-paced environment and an active nightlife, Hong Kong is definitely the place to be. Benefits for expats include its advanced healthcare system and elevated standards of schooling for children, along with great employment opportunities. The cost of living in Hong Kong can be high, so trying to negotiate a housing allowance with your employer can be beneficial.

Hong Kong is great for those looking for high incomes and career advancement.

10. Japan

As an expat destination, Japan offers a rich culture and a chance to experience a very different day-to-day life. Currently around two million expats live in Japan, and in the larger cities such as Tokyo a large portion of the population speaks English. English speakers are also in demand and there are a large number of opportunities for language teachers, especially in the capital.

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Japan offers a high standard of living for expats and a good education system for those with children.

11. Spain

Spain is a very popular destination for expats due to the high temperatures and year-round sunshine. EU residents don’t require a visa to work here, meaning the move can be a lot easier. Skilled foreign workers also continue to be in demand with jobs such as engineering, customer service, skilled trades and language teachers widely available.

A huge 14% of Spain’s population are expats from a variety of foreign countries.

12. Dubai

Two of the main attractions of moving to Dubai are the tax-free salaries and the warm climate. Some of the most popular jobs for expats are in construction, banking, oil and tourism. You can also enjoy a busy social life in Dubai as the expat community is thriving. Although it can be an expensive country, the tax-free salary means you experience a higher quality of life than in other countries.

You will need a work permit, residence visa and an Emirates ID card to live in Dubai as an expat.

13. Germany

Germany is one of Europe’s most populous countries, with around 82.4 million people. It’s a lively and inexpensive country to live in as an expat, and if you have children the education system is great and healthcare is to a high standard. An estimated 250,000 expats live in Germany currently, with the numbers rising every year.

If you are already an EU citizen, you don’t need a visa to live and work in Germany.

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14. The Netherlands

The Netherlands is a great place for expats who love the outdoors. Cycling is one of the main modes of transport and looking after the environment is widely recognized. There are a lot of English speakers in the Netherlands too, but learning the language can work to your advantage and make day-to-day life that little bit easier. Skilled expats can also benefit from a tax-free allowance equivalent to 30% if they meet the correct criteria.

It is often more important to be able to speak fluent English than to speak Dutch when looking for employment in the Netherlands.

15. China

China offers expats great employment opportunities with little competition. Those who embrace the culture and decide they want to live in China long term can see a host of employment opportunities as its economy is growing rapidly every year. Economists predict it will overtake the US as the world’s largest economy by 2018. China also offer expats low living costs and high disposable incomes, which is why many look to live here for a higher quality of life.

Shanghai and Beijing are the most popular destinations for expats who live in China.

Featured photo credit: Saulo Mohana via unsplash.com

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