Surprising Reasons You’re Hooked on Email

You don’t have to let your inbox control your life.

Are you hooked on constantly checking your email? Do you wish you could stop checking your email all the time? Maybe you’ve tried, but you’ve never succeeded. You always end up spending more time than you’d like to admit in your inbox.


Why is this?


When you receive an email, you feel needed and important. You love checking your inbox! Because you’re doing important work, it feels good. With each new email that you receive, the way that you’re spending your time is being validated. It’s human nature to crave that kind of validation. Once we experience it, it’s hard to stop doing the thing that causes it.


We love small, easy wins. Email is the epitome of that. According to a study conducted by Professor Teresa Amibile from Harvard Business School, people love making progress. Have you ever wondered why we love making to-do lists? It’s because we love checking items off that list. When we feel like we’re making progress, we get motivated. It’s what moves us forward toward reaching a particular goal.


All of this translates to how we handle our emails. Managing our inboxes makes us feel accomplished. Every time you respond to a message or get a response back from someone else, you’re moving one step forward. We feel good, because it proves that we’ve gotten something done.


How to Free Yourself from Your Inbox

It’s hard to break the cycle of email addiction. It’s going to take some intentional actions on your part. But it is possible! Here are some ways you can break the grip email has on you.


Set Goals for Checking Your Email

If you just tell yourself you’re going to check your emails less, it’s not going to happen. You need to have a specific plan. Set goals for how often you’re going to check your email. Limit the number to just a few times a day. Make a schedule that disperses the times throughout the day and stick to it. Don’t let yourself check your inbox outside of your schedule.


After you’ve set these goals, you need to find someone to keep you accountable. Share your email goals with a coworker or friend and ask them to check in on how you’re doing with following them. You could even work on this together and keep each other accountable. You’ll be more likely to meet your goals if someone else knows about them and is there to keep you on track when you’re not following them.


Use Rules, Filters, and Labels

Technology settings are your friend! Use them to simplify your life. By using rules in Outlook and filters and labels in Gmail, you’ll take less time going through your inbox. Your emails will automatically be sorted, prioritized, and replied to. These are great time-savers! You won’t spend so much time managing your inbox.


If you get dozens or even hundreds of emails every day, opening your inbox can be overwhelming. Rules, filters, and labels organize your inbox so you won’t feel so overwhelmed when you’re sorting through your emails. When you have the right settings in place, your visits to your inbox will be faster and more efficient.


Turn Off Email Notification Alerts

You won’t be able to stick to your email goals if you’re constantly being notified of every new email you receive. That constant buzzing and pinging will give you a headache and distract you from the real work you need to do. With each notification, you’ll also feel tempted to check your email more frequently than you should be.


There’s a simple solution to this: turn them all off! If they are out of sight (and sound), they’ll be out of mind. Without those annoying noises going off unexpectedly, you’ll feel free of your inbox. This will minimize distractions and increase your productivity.


Keep Track of Completed Tasks

Since checking your inbox give you a sense of accomplishment, if you’re not checking it so frequently, you’ll lose that good feeling of accomplishment. You’ll need something to replace it, so you keep feeling validated. It’s best if you choose a very tangible way to feel validated—something you can see and touch.


One way to do this is by keeping track of your accomplishments throughout the day. Make yourself a to-do list and mark all the items you complete. Focus on that good feeling. It will motivate you in a more substantial way than constantly checking your inbox ever did. The other accomplishments that you make will be more important than sending and receiving emails. When you look at your list throughout the day and see the things you’ve accomplished, two things will happen.


  1. You’ll feel motivated to keep accomplishing tasks.
  2. You’ll keep making the choice to not waste time on email.


Email is a fact of life for most of us. It’s one of the most frequent ways we communicate on a day-to-day basis. But you don’t have to let your inbox control your life. Stick to this plan, and you won’t be so hooked on your email anymore. You’ll save time, be more efficient, and have fewer distractions.


Carson Tate is a renowned coach, teacher, and creator of the Productivity Style Assessment® with expertise in providing simple solutions that transform individuals’ personal and professional lives. Learn more about her philosophy and strategies for productivity by visiting