Diana Kelly Levey

Freelancers: Constantly Checking Email Is Stressing You Out

November 5, 2018

Do you have any idea of how often you check your email, smartphone, and notifications on all of your devices? Chances are, it’s probably too much, according to a American Psychological Association’s new Stress in America: Coping with Change poll released last year.

Four out of five U.S. adults (86 percent) reported “that they constantly or often check their email, texts and social media accounts.” If you’re a freelance writer, I’m willing to bet that constantly checking your email is zapping your progress and peace.

That friend or colleague of yours who always gets back to you ASAP, and is of course, on his/her phone while in your company, (a.k.a. a “constant checker”) is likely to be more stressed (a 5.3 on a 1 to 10 scale) than someone who isn’t engaging with technology as frequently (4.4).

Other data suggests Americans are spending 208 minutes per day on non-voice media on their phones. That’s nearly 3.5 hours we’re spending on our phones daily when you don’t include talking on it.

In a society that’s “always on,” as a freelancer, you might feel like you have to check email from morning ’til night in order to ensure you don’t miss an assignment and your clients know they can rely on you. But, if you’re answering emails on your phone while spending time with your partner on the couch at night, your smartphone use could be hurting your relationship. (Using your cell phone at night could also disrupt your sleep, which will make you be more likely to be stressed tomorrow, too.)

“Taking a digital detox is one of the most helpful ways to manage stress related to technology use,” said Lynn Bufka, PhD, APA’s associate executive director for practice research and policy, in APA’s the press release. “Constant checkers could benefit from limiting their use of technology and presence on social media.”

Here are some ways to reduce email checking throughout the day (or take a tech break) that won’t hurt your freelance business:

  • Close out your inbox so you’re not checking it and getting distracted every time an email comes through. Discover all the things you can do in  15 minutes to build your freelance business.
  • Tell yourself you’ll only check and respond to emails for a certain time each hour. For example,  perhaps it’s 11:00-11:15, then 12:00-12:15. Eventually, scale back to every two hours.
  • Hit “Pause” on your Gmail. Try it for one hour, then two, aim for four hour breaks a few days a week. Steal time-management tips from super-busy teens.
  • Use tech to be more productive. Try the Freedom app to block yourself from checking certain websites and distractions so you can concentrate.
  • Set a time when you’ll be “done work” each day and won’t check email. I know this can be difficult as a freelancer and you’ll probably check email every time you  pick up  your phone. Try that “Pause” technique  overnight.
  • Step away from your computer and phone. (Practice these techniques for creative ways freelancers can come up with ideas.)
  • Set a timer and read a book, magazine or print newspaper.
  • Use ScreenTime’s feature on an iPhone to discover how you’re using your  Smartphone as set up parameters so you don’t check email and social media platforms for certain hours of the day.

Think that work stress is no big deal? Stress hurts our health in many ways, like causing headaches, making us more likely to get sick, wrecking our sleep, impacting cardiovascular health, causing back pain, and more. Being in a constant state of stress also impacts our hormones and our ability to lose weight, as well as our ability to concentrate.

Do you want to cut back on your email use?

Learn more about the Freelance Writing Online Course I created to help beginners get started with freelance writing and give experienced freelance writers the push they need to make more money freelance writing.

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