How to Stay on Top of Your E-mails Without Letting Them Stress You Out

If you set the right boundaries, your inbox doesn’t have to follow you home.

Responding to the constant influx of messages into your inbox can become second nature, but when you’re still responding long after the end of the workday, the ongoing interruptions can start taking over your life. After all, getting to inbox zero is often seen as the sign of a productive day, but there’s something to be said for leaving work at work  and disconnecting from email is a crucial part of that.

Staying on top of your inbox is important, but carving out time to take a break from it is also essential for your stress levels and mental well-being. Here are a few ways to stay in control of your emails, and keep from letting them take over your life:

Block out designated time to respond

It’s easy to get accustomed to answering your emails from your phone no matter where you are, but research suggests it can be helpful to block out designated time on your calendar to manage the flow of communication. It takes an average of 25 minutes to refocus after being interrupted, so setting aside time for responding to your emails can help you stay present during other times in your day, and can boost your productivity by forcing your mind to focus on one thing at a time.

Keep your bedroom tech-free

We talk a lot about the importance of keeping your bedroom tech-free, and that’s because there are so many benefits to doing so  from helping you wind down before bed, sleep betterduring the night, and disconnecting your mind from the outside world. If you feel inclined to answer emails right before you go to sleep or right when you wake up, you might be letting your inbox take over the time you need to focus on yourself  and it can end up adding to your stress in the long run. Whether you need to set an alarm to escort your devices out of your room, or ask your partner to hold you accountable for charging your phone in the kitchen, it’s important to set those boundaries, and stick to them.

Be comfortable with incompletions

It’s important to set physical boundaries with your inbox, but setting mental boundaries is equally as important when it comes to putting a firm end to the workday. If you’re someone who needs to reach zero emails by the end of the day, putting too much emphasis on the number could be stressing you out  and that’s where incompletions come in. If you find yourself checking email at all hours of the day, remind yourself that it’s truly OK to unplug and return to your unanswered messages tomorrow. 

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- Marcus Aurelius

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