Leadership

Your 'inbox-zero' email obsession might be killing your relationship

Checking emails outside of work can put stress on your relationship, says study.

Obsessed with  "inbox zero "? You're not alone. In an age of 24/7 connectivity, most office folk spend hours on email every day. In fact, millennials have admitted in surveys they check their email while they walk, talk, workout, socialize and while they sit in bed. Some even admit they check their email while in the bathroom.

This obsession could be harming their health and killing their relationships, according to a recently published study in Academy of Management Proceedings.

Researchers surveyed 142 full-time employees and their partners about their companies' expectations regarding electronic communications. They were also asked questions about their health, wellness and relationships.

The study found that people who felt an obligation to check professional emails outside of standard work hours had higher levels of anxiety and lower levels of well-being. Worse still, their partners also suffered from the detrimental "spillover effect." They reported increased levels of stress related to their spouse's use of work emails, poor overall health, poor sleep quality and decreased marital satisfaction.

These findings held true regardless of how much time the individual actually spent checking work emails. This suggests that simply feeling like you're expected to respond to emails can take a toll on your mental state and relationship.

For people in strong, committed relationships, this can be a Catch-22. After all, research indicates that people with supportive spouses are more likely to take on big, rewarding challenges. While taking on the world can lead to personal growth and improved well-being, it could also lead to spill-over stress for those supportive partners.

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Avoid the mistakes this author made when cold-emailing Tim Ferriss

Many notable people have discussed the importance of having their spouse by their side, including former president Barack Obama.

"I couldn't have done anything that I've done without Michelle," he told Oprah Winfrey in 2011. "Not only has she been a great first lady, she is just my rock. I count on her in so many ways every single day."

Of course, it's not just women supporting their husbands. In a 2013 interview with Winfrey, Beyoncé noted that her husband, rapper and business mogul Jay-Z, helps her "on so many levels."

"I would not be the woman I am if I did not go home to that man," said the Grammy winning artist. "It just gives me such a foundation."

For those who find it difficult to disconnect during post-work hours, try these three tips on managing your inbox from top execs:

1. Use a Boomerang extension

"If something isn't urgent, I use the Boomerang extension for Gmail to make sure that I send non-urgent things to be returned to my inbox the next day or week, " says Liz Wissel, co-founder and CEO of WayUp.

The plug-in allows you to schedule emails to be sent automatically. It also provides reminders when you haven't heard back from someone. If you're looking to avoid post-work emails, you can set up automatic messages to be delivered once you leave the office.

Other apps such as Mute, Forest and Moment can all help you spend less time on your phone and more time with the people most important to you.

2. Send fewer emails during the day

The fewer emails you send, the fewer emails you'll need to respond to later on. "As ridiculously simple as it sounds for such a pervasive problem, I've found this to be the golden rule of email management," writes LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner.

3. Take control of your inbox

Remember: Most work projects aren't email projects. Think about the most important priorities you have and if email is at the top of that list. When you do need something, consider talking to someone in person or if an online chat or a telephone call would be more efficient and productive.

4. Set boundaries

The best leaders don't mindlessly reach for their phone. Adam Braun of Mission U refuses to check his email until he's had human contact. By this point in the morning he has already spent time with his wife or child, his real priorities.

Others check their email at key times during the day in short bursts. Weiner, for example, scans his inbox early in the day and only responds to pressing matters. This ensures anything urgent is dealt with first, helping him control his schedule.

5. Check emails during alone time

If your position requires you to constantly check your email, copy this strategy from YouTube vlogger-turned-millionaire entrepreneur Michelle Phan: Check your emails in the shower.

"While I'm showering, I put on my waterproof phone case so that I can check my emails, she told NBC's Today. "It's really about maximizing my time and it's all about efficiency."

While this might not be a fit for everyone, it's a good reminder to stop responding to emails when there are living, breathing people sitting with you. That means not grabbing your phone at dinner or even while watching a movie with friends or a partner. Being present with the people that mean the most to you will strengthen connections and boost everyone's well-being.

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VIDEO2:2602:26
Reduce the amount of email you get with this simple trick from LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner


Checking emails outside of work can put stress on your relationship, says study.
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