Is Interminable Email Your Procrastination Strategy?


I don't know about you, but I'm starting to feel like email is the modern-day hydra: as soon as you chop off one head (yay! I finally wrote back to my boss and cleared that off my to-do list!) there are two more waiting for you in its place (dang it, now two of my co-workers wrote me back and I have to deal with this...).

The crazy thing about email is that the more you work on it, the more comes back your way. No one was ever like, "Hey, I just checked all my email and now I'm done with email for the week!" Nope. Not how email works.

The other crazy thing is that email can feel really, really important.

Like so important that it warrants putting of paying the bills. Or taking a nap.

Okay, and yes, email is important, so in many cases that feeling may be justified. If you're not prompt in your correspondence it can see to others as though you're lazy, behind schedule or just don't care about their communication. None of those things are good.

A Little Less Conversation, a Little More Action

It's not really a secret these days that "media overload" is a main contributor to chronic stress. But have you ever had the experience of sitting down to plow through some emails and felt your entire day become de-railed?

For me, it usually looks something like this: I have a number of writing projects on the docket that I know must be completed by the end of the day. However, I always start my day with email so I can make sure and take care of any client concerns that may have come up overnight.

Sometimes, though, I'll see something in my email that feels so interesting -- so urgent, or so compelling -- that I end up spending a few hours on it instead of wrapping up my email and getting to work on the actual creation process that was my original intention.

Strategies to Deal with Email

At a business conference I once heard Suzanne Evans tell people to (and I'm paraphrasing here) "check your email only twice a day. Once in the morning and once in the afternoon, and that's it."

"Check your email only twice a day. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon, and that's...

She didn't want people to end up spending hours going through their inbox and feeling as though they were obligated to instantly respond to the messages that came in.

Another strategy I heard recently -- or maybe I made it up, I can't remember -- was to finish all electronic communication by 4 pm. Maybe set aside an hour mid-day to get through everything and check in once or twice through the work day just in case, but starting at 4 pm all social media, all email, all electronic communication ceases.

This is not only helpful for staying focused during the second half of the day (when we're most tempted to wander off with a Snickers bar), but it also helps us unwind and prepare for the evening time. Usually, this part of the day is spent with family over dinner or, if you're like me, watching Little League games at the local baseball diamond.

If you catch yourself using email to distract yourself from accomplishing real work consider that it may be a subconscious procrastination strategy and give yourself limitations.

Allison Volk specializes in creating authority and visibility for businesses and entrepreneurs through effective content marketing. Her clients have appeared in The Huffington Post,, Mind Body Green, LifeHack, Bitter Lemons and, to name a few. Find out more at