How to Email Mindfully
Believe it or not, you can apply mindfulness to every task you approach, even emailing. Email is both incredibly convenient and incredibly stressful. As the existence of over 5 billion email accounts demonstrates, however, it is certainly popular.
Here are some facts about email:
- Over 100 trillion emails are sent every year.
- The average office worker spends over a quarter of his or her day dealing with emails.
- The average employee sends and receives 116 emails a day.
Email is a tool for your own use. When you check email when you need to and respond efficiently, all may be well. But you may be in the habit of checking email too often, hoping for that next interesting message to come flying through.
Mindful emailing is using email with greater awareness and wisdom. The purpose of using email is to communicate for the benefit of both you and your recipient.
Try these tips to help you use email more mindfully and productively:
- Make a brief emailing plan. Use a notebook to jot down who you plan to send emails to and a few brief points that you want to make each day. Then write those emails first. You can check new emails later. Making a plan may take only a couple of minutes but can save you hours of time reading and replying to unimportant emails.
- Watch out for email addiction. Decide in advance how many times a day you’re going to check your emails. For some people, once is enough; for others, once an hour is necessary. Unless your primary role is dealing with emails, you need to ensure that you’re not in the habit of constantly checking your inbox.
If you find that even sticking to a nominal number of checks a day isn’t working, write down the actual times of day that you’re going to open your inbox. Imposing discipline on yourself in this way helps you retrain your mind so that you focus on what’s in front of you rather than being constantly distracted by often unnecessary messages.
- Breathe before sending. Before you send an email, take three mindful breaths. Doing so helps you to become more mindful, gives you an opportunity to reflect on what you’ve written, and helps you to stay focused. Give it a try!
- See your email from the other person’s perspective. After you’ve taken your mindful breaths (see preceding point), imagine how the other person will feel when she reads your email. You may decide that it needs editing before you send it. You may even give her a call instead!
Chade-Meng Tan, the man behind mindfulness programs at Google, recalls one staff member who tried this technique. Apparently, when this person described having tried something different and made a phone call, everyone in the room gasped! At Google, technology obviously rules.
- Send at least one positive email every day. Focusing on the good helps to rebalance your brain’s natural negativity bias and makes both you and your recipient feel better. Praise an employee for settling into the team so quickly, thank your boss for her help with the report yesterday, or congratulate Michelle on her sales presentation. A positive email is a great way to start the day.
Control your emails; don’t let them control you. Choose whom you want to respond to instead of reacting to every new email that lands in your inbox. Cultivate good email habits, such as limiting the time you spend on them and focusing only on those that are essential. Above all, be mindful and present as you deal with emails. Use your favorite mindful exercises before and after emailing to help you achieve greater focus.
Turn off your message notifications, so that you aren’t alerted each time a new one arrives. Doing so is your first step toward reducing the amount of time you waste in this way.