I get so many emails in a day. Checking my inbox when at work and at home takes up so much time. Do you have suggestions for managing my time and controlling my email?

Answer From Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Yes. In today's digital environment, it can be difficult to disconnect from email. But you don't have to be connected all the time. And there can be consequences to staying connected. When you access email, send text messages and follow social media:

  • You deplete the glucose in your brain as you hop from one task to the next. Your brain can become fatigued.
  • You feel a sense of accomplishment. That's because you get a surge of dopamine — one of the feel-good hormones — in the brain. You're rewarded for accessing email, text messages and social media, which leads you to do it again.

Here are a few ideas for managing your time and your email:

  • Limit email time. Within reason, access your email and social media only periodically, such as first thing in the morning, mid-morning and late in the day. Otherwise, your day may be hijacked by someone else's agenda.
  • Be smart about how you work. Research has found that most people can focus and concentrate for about 90 minutes. So set the clock and at the end of 90 minutes, take a short break and move on to something else.
  • Don't skimp on sleep. You can't be effective if you're sleep deprived. In general, most adults need seven to nine hours of restorative sleep.
  • Make a plan and stick to it. Either you plan your time or someone may plan it for you. To plan your time, try sitting down at a quiet moment, perhaps early in the morning or late in the day, and writing out a list of critical tasks. Use your time to work on these items, rather than allowing yourself to be distracted by emails or social media.

With these ideas in mind, you can manage your time and your emails.


Edward T. Creagan, M.D.

Follow on Twitter: @EdwardCreagan

Feb. 12, 2020 See more Expert Answers

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