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Seven ways to stop “casually checking” your inboxes so you can be more focused

Of all the things you can do to make your inbox more calm, the biggest thing, by far, is to eliminate what I call the “Just Checks.”

The Just Checks are all the times when you’re not quite sure what to do, so you reach for your phone to “just check” social media. Or “just check” your messages. Or “just check” your email.

You don’t really have anything specific you need to do, you just have a few moments to fill, so you’re pulled magnetically pulled towards the screen in your pocket. That’s a just check.

My biggest pet peeve in life are people who are checking their phones when at a stop light. Seriously??

The problem is that these “just checks” can become an actual addiction. I call it inbox addiction.

Inbox Addiction is an urge to continuously check our news feeds, social feeds, and message inboxes despite undesirable and even negative consequences or a desire to stop.

While inbox addiction isn’t as self-destructive as urgency addiction, nor is it as harmful and dangerous as problem gambling or alcoholism, it’s still a very real issue. Inbox addiction poses a serious threat to doing our best creative work and staying focused on our essential tasks. The constant draw to refresh our inboxes and just check our timelines and stats is not only robbing us of our ability to focus, but of our ability to do substantial, meaningful work.

That’s why a Calm Inbox mindset is so important.

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Here are 7 tips, plus a bonus, for how to get control of your inbox:

1: Smarter Notifications

Turn off notifications on your phone and computer for everything but only the most essential and urgent areas.

Not only does this cut down on the amount of distractions your phone provides, but it also can help you be more wise about what you do and don’t need to check in on. The only push notifications I get are text messages and direct messages from my project management software.

For example, I found that I was often checking both email and Twitter to make sure I wasn’t getting any complaints from readers that one of my websites was down. So instead, I set up a website monitoring service that sends me a text message if a website actually does go down.

Use VIPs and Thread Notifications from time to time when there is something you are urgently waiting for.

2: Time Blocking

If you check Facebook 50 times a day, try to cut that down to just a few times a day.

If you keep email open at all times, try to check it just 3 times a day and focus only on answering and responding to and archiving your emails. I strongly recommend having a maximum amount of time that you will allow yourself to spend on news, email, social media.

3: Predictable Time Off

Set a time when you will not check your email or social media news feeds from your phone. Such as at the dinner table, at church, for an hour after waking up, etc.

I also use Do Not Disturb quite liberally. Basically it’s on from 5pm until noon each day. It’s like intermittent fasting but from distractions.

4: Device-free zones

Create a designate space in your home / work / office where you will not use any digital devices.

For instance, get an old-school alarm clock for your bedside and move your phone charger to a different room of the house — keeping your bedroom as a smartphone-free zone.

Don’t bring your smartphone to your desk when you are doing your focused work time.

5: Different devices for different tasks:

If your news and social media feeds are not a vital part of your life, consider removing those apps from you main computer and phone, and only checking them from a different device — such as a dedicated iPod touch or iPad.

6: Monitor computer usage

On your Mac and iOS devices, you can set up Screen Time monitoring and even create limits for certain apps and types of apps. (Full walk-through and roadmap inside this Time Tracking course.)

7: Make provisions to account for what-if scenarios

If you’re constantly checking email, news, and social media for fear of missing out on something important then try this:

Define all the things you’re afraid of missing out on and then write out a plan to minimize any real risk that may exist of an irreversible negative outcome due to you not checking your email, etc..

8: Communicate your Do Not Disturb hours

Tell your boss / co-workers / family / that you’re not available at certain times. By simply communicating to people that email is not the best way to get ahold of you quickly it can help you overcome the need to constantly be available via email.

* * *

As you look over the list of these ideas for eliminating inbox addiction, which one sounds the most helpful to you right now?

Consider applying it to your life and seeing what positive impact it has.

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Introducing the new Focus Boosters.

Inside our popular Focus Club membership, join us for the Habit Building challenge (a.k.a. “Booster”). You’ll find out how to make simple changes that will make your daily life better, remove distractions, and create a new simple habit.

Membership Includes: Simple Habits Course, Habit Tracking Templates, Digital Planner, Private Chat Community, Monthly Coaching Calls, and much, much more…

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