How do most of us start our day? When we ask our workshop participants this question, the answer we invariably get is: "on e-mail". Here are some of the reasons why we start the day on e-mail (and why we keep going back to e-mail every time we hear the beep or when we are at a loss of what to do next) and I would like to hear from you what are the top 3 reasons for you (choose from the list or add your own--post your comment below):
1. Curiosity: We are curious about what happened in the world since we checked e-mail last.
2. Hope for good news: This is the winning-the-lottery syndrome. It may happen to me! I may get this great promotion or great deal or great surprise from someone.
3. Feeling accomplished: Replying to e-mails gives us the feeling that we are getting things done. Each e-mail message answered is like a micro-project successfully completed and checked off the list.
4. Fear of being left behind: We want to make sure we are not missing important information or developments, and potentially losing our competitive edge.
5. Anxiety about outstanding tasks: We cannot relax if we have outstanding e-mail messages.
6. Avoidance: Instead of focusing on more important and usually more difficult tasks, it is easier to be on e-mail.
7. Lack of direction/Need for direction: We don't know exactly what we should be doing, e-mail give us the answer, at least a temporary fix.
8. Handling urgent stuff: We have to check e-mail because we get urgent requests on e-mail, which need to be handled immediately.
9. Meeting the expectations of others: It is usually expected that e-mails are answered fairly quickly, either by our boss, colleagues, or generally as part of the culture in our organization. If we don't meet these expectations, we may be seen as "not fully on top of things".
And there are probably more reasons. All together, these factors make e-mail seductive, addictive, rewarding, and anxiety-provoking, all at the same time!