Controlling E-mail – It’s a Matter of Attitude

A while ago I posted some principles that help you take control over the constant flow of e-mail. I’ve seen these simple changes in habit make a difference in many peoples’ lives just by applying them regularly. However some people have a very difficult time implementing even simple changes and I’ve often wondered why.

Over the years as I work with coaching clients I’ve observed those in control of the e-mail flow and those who aren’t (they’re controlled by it). The groups have completely different attitudes about what e-mail really is, their organization’s unwritten expectations and how they should respond to it.

The In-Control crowd views e-mail as a tool to be used when needed. They visit their Inbox when they need to, otherwise it’s back in the toolbox. They view the e-mail Inbox much like a physical paper mailbox (snail mail). They go to it when it’s time to “get the mail”.

The Out-of-Control crowd typically live in their Inbox. They view e-mail as one of the major forces that drive their day. Often their e-mail notifications are activated. They can be observed turning to looking at their screen each time a new message arrives. As the driver of their day, Inboxes are usually full because the “Important” messages must serve as reminders. Often they have a feeling that the organization expects them to respond to each message immediately. To the Out-of-Control group, e-mail is as urgent as a ringing telephone.

Implementing new techniques and tips is easy. Changing an attitude is much more difficult.

What’s your attitude about e-mail? Do you feel that your organization expects immediate response to messages?