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September 19, 2014 12:01 AM EDT
Barker is the author of Barking Up The Wrong Tree

We send, and receive, a lot of email.

Via The Tyranny of E-Mail:

The Downside of Email

All forms of communication are not created equal. E-mail does a terrible job of conveying emotions:

Via The Tyranny of E-Mail:

Too much time at the keyboard and not enough time with people may reduce the ability to read nonverbal signals, to judge the intent of others and influence them:

Steven Johnson suggests that by stripping away the emotional information in faces and intonation, email and text messaging might be simulating autism.

Via Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life:

People lie more via email.

Communicating via email (vs. face-to-face) makes people less cooperative and makes them feel more justified in being noncooperative:

Basically, too much communication via e-mail can turn you into a jerk.

Stress Up, Intelligence Down

Email stresses us out:


Constant e-mails and texts have the effect of reducing mental ability by an average of about 10 IQ points. For men, it’s about three times the effect of smoking marijuana.

Via Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long:

Spam alone wastes 20 hours of your life every year.

On a bigger note, too much e-mail time can make you unhappy. We frequently use technology like email to replace relationships. This is bad.

Technology can increase happiness and improve relationships if you leverage it to connect with other people face-to-face.

What’s The Solution?

Below are three great methods. I personally use the first two. The third is a going-nuclear option for those who are beyond the point of no return.

1) Batching

Turn off all notifications on your desktop and mobile email clients. Set it up so you can send email without automatically checking.

Then designate 2 or 3 times a day when you’ll look at and respond to email. And stick to those.

Tim Ferriss explains here:

2) Inbox Zero

Get that inbox empty and keep it empty using this system. The creator of the method, Merlin Mann, explains it best in this video.

More info here.

3) Email bankruptcy

Are you so hopelessly behind that you can’t even imagine catching up? Well, if you need a nuclear option, this is it.

Declare e-mail bankruptcy: Send a bulk email saying you’re going to do a reset. You’re sorry but you can’t and won’t be replying to all the emails clogging your inbox. Then archive everything.

Yes, there will be pain. And the reset will generate a lot of new e-mail. But for many this is the only way to start fresh.

Don’t be embarrassed — some of the internet’s luminaries have had to resort to it:

Via The Tyranny of E-Mail:

After the bankruptcy is the single best time to implement inbox zero, simply because you will (at least briefly) have an empty inbox. You should also designate your batch times.

What else can you do to claw back precious hours from the digital gremlins?

  • More on productivity here.
  • More on using tech to increase happiness here.
  • More on killing bad habits and starting good ones here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

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