Digital Clutter: Swamped in Email

Emails. Oh emails.


Have you ever worked in a place where email is everything? I have! Maybe you were judged based on the volume of email you create – regardless of how effective or pointless those emails were.


The demand is simple: constant connection. Jump at every email. Respond now. “I sent you an email three minutes ago, why haven’t you responded? What is wrong with you, why aren’t you doing your job?” Never mind it’s 11 pm.


Everyone thinks their particular issue is the most important thing, and it must be addressed at this very moment. The reality is very little of what we do in our day job is about life and death. In my career, there is nothing that rises to that level of importance. Yet, for many of my colleagues, they think their particular fire at this very moment is the most important thing the world has ever seen.


As I reflect, I see it as an example of false importance, and an inability to see what real priorities look like.


Email can be an incredibly helpful tool. But in many places it quickly becomes digital clutter that distracts people from their real jobs. It becomes noise pollution.


You suddenly find yourself buried in 1,000 unread email messages. Your boss is questioning why you haven’t responded to some obtuse query that isn’t important – but the reality is it’s buried in a morass of clutter.


Many of us have been there – and it doesn’t feel good.


Your stress and anxiety levels go up. Instead of email being a great tool, it becomes a mechanism of control that keeps you chained to your desk and quickly limits your effectiveness. Used effectively, it’s very helpful; used the way most organizations use it, it’s a millstone around your neck.


As you think about clutter in your life, and about techniques to feel more in control of your time – digital clutter is a major issue.


The reality is so many of us have our work emails on our phone. We hear the notifications all evening long as those work emails are piling up. With every notification, our stress level rises.


I’ve had this for a good part of my career – but recently (for the last 3 months or so) I haven’t had my work email on my phone. It is incredible how good it feels to not have it on there. I know I’ll need to connect to it once again, but I am going to enjoy the disconnect for as long as I possibly can.

Why talk about this on a Trevi blog post?

Because addressing all forms of clutter in life is important! The things that cause you stress, regardless of what they are, impact your ability to reach towards your goals, and can have an impact on your personal finances.


Digital clutter is a first world distraction – and it’s one that we have control over. Anytime we are distracted from the more important things in life, we need to find strategies to move beyond those distractions.


Gaining control of your email– and setting boundaries on how you will use email – is one of those places where you can set the pace. Even if you are in an organization that values email above all else, you can be a bit countercultural and set the approach on how you will use it.


What are some tips to gain control of email clutter?

  • Only check email a couple of times a day. Don’t keep it running in the background all day.
  • Leave your out of office on indicating that you only check email a couple of times a day and that you value a phone call if something is urgent over an email.
  • Don’t stay constantly connected to your work email when you leave the office. Nothing is usually that important that it can’t wait until you are back in the office the next morning.
  • Block out one window a week to eliminate all unnecessary clutter in email – and let people know that if something is important, you expect them to reach out to you in something other than a long-winded email.
  • Keep your emails and responses brief and to the point. Set the example of not using email as the end all be all.

As you find ways to gain control of the digital clutter in your life, you’ll find a little more time for other things that are more important – and gasp, you might even be able to cut down on the time you physically spend in the office. Don’t let other people control your time. Take control!

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