Are You Suffering From Email Addiction?

Does email addiction interrupt your day? Can you walk past the computer without checking your email or facebook notifications? How often do you take an email break? Email addiction slows your productivity making your work take longer. Next thing you know, deadlines approach and you are stressed and behind schedule... yet you still hit "check mail"!

What Did We Do Before Email?

Are you old enough to remember the world before email? I am. I had to actually call people on the phone to arrange a trip to the movies. If I had news to share, I had to call each person I wanted to share with, spending hours repeating my news to each person. I also remember the ancient use of paper in order to communicate. I used to have these things called "stationary sets". I would actually use a pen to write letters to people on paper and then affix these sticky things called "stamps" to them and government employees would then deliver them to my friends! This whole process took DAYS! Now I can update my whole family on my kids' accomplishments in minutes, and they usually respond within minutes.

Email makes life easier, for sure. But I found myself checking my email even when I was not expecting a response from anyone in particular. It's mostly junk I delete, but I would check an hour later just the same. I couldn't walk by the computer without glancing at the inbox. THEN, I got a cell phone that had email capabilities! Suddenly, whenever I felt bored, I could check my email. It comes in very handy when someone is emailing you an address that you need to be at and you are miles from your computer. It is not so handy when you are trying to access said address while driving the car... or when you use up your cell phone's battery checking email or facebook mobile and then don't have enough juice for an important call hours later.

The Science Behind the Addiction

Scientists have found that we get a little squirt of dopamine whenever we check our devices... email, voice mail, etc. Dopamine is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter (chemical in your brain) that provides a feeling of enjoyment. Dopamine is released when we eat and encourages us to eat again... for survival. When we eat when we're not hungry, we're often looking for this dopamine rush. When we check our email when we don't need to... you got it... we're looking for this dopamine rush! Email addiction is powerful!

In many a psychology study, rats in cages have been given food on different schedules to see what causes the rat to check the food box most often. When food only arrives at 8am every day, you'll find the rat only checks the food box at 7:59 and completely ignores the food box the rest of the day. When food only arrives after the yellow light turns on, Mr. Rat will only check the food box when the yellow light turns on. The situation that gets Mr. Rat looking in the food box constantly is when food arrives with absolutely no cues whatsoever. Some days, a food pellet arrives sporadically every few minutes throughout the day, some days there are three meals.

When Mr. Rat cannot predict when food will come, he's checking that box every few minutes. This unpredictable reinforcement, by the way, is the same schedule that a slot machine uses to get us pulling the lever. What does this have to do with email? Most of the time, there is nothing in our inbox. But SOMETIMES, there is something VERY important in our inbox... but we never know when that important email will come, so we keep checking... and checking... and checking...

You can turn this around. Fight your email addiction by only checking your email once a day. By responding to emails at the end of day, you can train yourself to kick the "checking habit".

You Might Have An Email Addiction If...

-You check your email while driving, in bed, or in the bathroom.

-You write emails just to get emails back so your inbox won't be empty (this goes for texting on your cell phone also)

-You feel the need to respond to emails the moment you read them, even if they aren't urgent.

-You get annoyed if anything keeps you from checking your email, as in when your spouse is on the computer or the internet connection is down.

Like an addiction to anything else, email addiction wreaks havoc on your health. How do you feel when you want to check your email and are trying not to? How do you feel when you want to eat a snickers bar and are trying not to? How do you feel when you want a cigarette and are trying not to? These are not fun experiences! Your body WANTS that dopamine! Kick the habit and find extra time and more peace in your day.

I'm An Addict! What Do I Do?

The first step to releasing yourself from an email addiction is imagining how much better your day would go if you didn't spend so much time on email.

1. Add up all the time you spend on email on a typical day. If you find this difficult, time yourself checking your email three times a day. Take the average. Multiply that by the number of times you check email per day.

2. Determine if that much time is necessary. If you are in a job that requires you to be "ON" (accessible and available) all the time, you might need to continue to check your email several times a day, but try to shorten the amount of time you take by only responding to emails once a day, making exception for urgent matters.

3. What could you do in all that extra time? Read books that are collecting dust on your shelves? Take better care of your children? Take better care of your house? Cook better, more healthy food? Spend more time with the actual people in your life instead of the virtual people? Make a commitment to spend less time checking email and facebook and other social media sites!

4. For most of us, we DO NOT have to be available and accessible all the time. When you feel the urge to check your email, think: "Whose email am I hoping to see?" If you can't think of anyone, then you are probably just bored. Are there better ways to spend boring moments? FOR SURE! Pray. Strike up a conversation with the person next to you and find a way to encourage them. Turn up the radio and sing along. Think of a nice thing to say to your spouse when you see them next.

You will reduce the stress in your life when you get your priorities in order. How high a priority is email in your life? Put it in its rightful place!

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