Squash Email Anxiety (Live)

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Learn how to overcome email and inbox anxiety using some research-backed strategies. If we think of email as a tool and not a project to complete, then we'll be much happier and more productive.

How to crush it at email. That's the big question for today!

We wanted to discuss email anxiety in this live stream because email is so prevalent in our society. Also, it is one of the most common causes of social anxiety and also productivity-related anxiety, which is the feeling that you’re not getting enough done.

Today’s Live Stream topic is how to crush it at email. We’re going to discuss how to send good emails, how to overcome email anxiety, and how to stay on top of your inbox so that it does not control you.

Email anxiety: What is email anxiety?

  • Not knowing how to respond (be it to an informal or formal email)
  • Seeing a long email and then just never responding because you’re too overwhelmed
  • When you’re waiting for a response from the person you emailed 

Part of what makes communication via email so overwhelming for some people is that it is asynchronous in nature.

There is a delay in response time and the sender does not know when they’ll get a reply.

The other reason it can be stressful is that email sometimes lacks contextual cues.

  • Some helpful strategies to help combat email anxiety
  • Have a solid subject line so that the recipient can know what to expect
  • Be explicit about your tone in the email
  • Get to the point quickly
  • Keep it short. Challenge yourself to take out the fluff or superfluous words. Meaningless verbiage can be avoided if you make an effort.
  • If you can’t condense it into an email, maybe it’s better to hop on a call or meet in person
  • If there’s a chain of emails, back and forth, then it is better to overcommunicate (in terms of frequency) rather than avoiding the email altogether and going radio silent
  • We have a lesson called “Email like a boss” and I’ll link it below if you’d like to check out the strategies for writing a good email that you don’t have to stress about


Inbox anxiety: How to manage your inbox

  • What is inbox anxiety: feeling the need to respond to every single email, checking it obsessively, doing a perfunctory email check, being distracted by notifications
  • Do you need to have a zero inbox and read everything?
  • Anxiety around time-sensitivity and how quickly you need to respond to emails 
  • Some helpful strategies:
  • “indistractable: how to control your attention and choose your life” by Nir Eyal 
  • Labelling with ASAP and this weekend
  • Checking it at certain times of the day and not falling prey to notifications. 
  • Unsubscribing from newsletters or blogs you never read. Be ruthless with this. I think a good rule of thumb is that if you haven’t opened any emails from that sender for a week, then you unsubscribe.
  • Some other suggestions are to delete everything and start with a clean slate. You could also archive your emails and start fresh. 
  • Having different email accounts and being really organized about what email gets sent where. Work, personal, side-hustle, etc.
  • OPP folder: Drew Housten, founder of Dropbox has a folder that he calls OPP which stands for Other People’s Priorities and artchives it because he prioritizes his own to do list.
  • Email is not something to check off your todo list, it’s not a project you’ve completed, it is a communication tool and viewing it as an instrument can help alleviate the stress around it
  • James Altucher’s email habits are interesting. He responds to email years later…this is what he shared in one of his books. Greg shares the story in our conversation. 
  • Dan Ariely is a behavioral economist at Duke University, and he wrote the book called “predictably irrational” and he finds that email can actually deter productivity because of the belief that every single email is urgent and warrants an immediate reply, even if they’re not important. He conducted a survey about people’s email habits and he found that around 33% of emails people received actually didn’t need to be viewed at all and only 10% of emails were so important that they needed to be seen within 5 minutes of receiving that email. He discovered while every email gives you a notification, not every email deserves one. He and a team created an app called Filtr that allows you to change settings where emails from family and friends can be shown to you ASAP while the non-time-sensitive emails and newsletters show up in your inbox at the end of the day
  • Batching your time spent on email: so maybe in the morning and then at the end of the work day. Removing email notifications.
  • Try the “one minute rule” which is what Gretchen Rubin (author of the Happiness Project) does. So she tried to complete tasks under one minute. And she feels that by keeping the smaller tasks under control, she’s much more calm. Could you apply this rule to email? Quite possibly. Might be a good idea to see which emails that need immediate attention could be replied to in a minute. Otherwise, you can respond later if it can wait or it demands a longer answer. 

Being good at written communication is an important skill because of the prevalence of email in our lives. 

Email is not going anywhere so it’s better that we manage our email and inbox anxiety by implementing these tools that we discussed today. It doesn’t look like Slack is not going to replace email any time soon, unlike what was predicted.

Let’s start crushing email by (1) viewing it as a tool, (2) respond in a timely way and short way (3) be selective about what gets sent to your inbox. And try out the methods we discussed in this live stream.

For those of you watching the replay of this live, feel free to share your own strategies for managing email and inbox anxiety in the comments below. We love hearing from the Explearning community!

We’ll be back next week with another Live stream. That’s on Tuesday evening at 9:30 pm EST. 

And catch our lessons on Thursdays when they air at 5:30 am EST.

We’ll see you in the next one! Happy Explearning 😊