Summertime and the living is easy...or not.
Lately, I have been waking up several times a night and ruminating about my digital life. Sometimes my heart is beating fast. Sometimes I'm drenched in sweat.
During the day, I am preoccupied with thoughts -- "I will never catch up," "If I don't keep up I will be buried," "I will never have enough time to do what I need to do on my computer."
Day or night, these recurring thoughts are intrusive and paralyzing. They are not helpful. But what exactly am I worrying about?
After I returned from a recent family vacation, I spent time trying to identify the source of my worrisome thoughts and feelings. Surely there has to be a label that explains my experience.
Is it Technophobia -- fear of technology? No, that's not it. I don't mind technology in moderation. Is it Cyberphobia -- fear of or aversion to computers and of learning new technologies? No, that's not it. I like computers and learning. Then it hit me -- I was worrying about email, and specifically about my overflowing Inbox.
I have *Inboxitis. As we all know, the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. It also helps to build community so we all can tell our story and support one another. If I have Inboxitis, surely there are others.
Technology has changed the world for the better in many ways, and in others, not so much. We can communicate efficiently all over the world. As they say, the "world is flat." We can share discoveries, medical technology, news and more with the click of a button -- instantly. However, there are also increased expectations about communication and response time. People -- personally and professionally -- get upset if you don't respond immediately or in an hour or less at the most. Responding in 24 hours is like the pony express!
I was finding myself preoccupied with checking my phone at all hours of the waking day. My heart was actually beating fast as I winced while checking to see how many emails had come since the last time I looked. I decided this had to stop. I realized that I couldn't live this way any longer. Since I believe in the power of the mind and one's capacity to identify a problem and create a solution, I created a treatment plan, or better yet, a life plan, with the soul purpose of overcoming Inboxitis.
• Setting realistic expectations -- I will realize that I can only do my best to respond to people in a timely manner and that emailing is just one small task in a sea of many that I have daily. I must also set realistic expectations for those I communicate with so they know what timeline to expect from me.
• Assert myself -- I will request that people only email me if they have something I need to know or respond to.
• Challenge and change my irrational thinking -- I will be aware of my irrational thoughts such as "I will never keep up" and change them to a more adaptive thought like "All I can do is my best" and "The important messages always come more than once."
• Let thoughts pass -- I will notice my thoughts about email and simply let them pass. They are usually not true and I don't have to believe them.
• Schedule email time -- I will schedule time in my day for email. When I get worried that I will not have enough time for email, I will remember that I actually do have enough time and will do it later.
• Remember that the inbox is never empty -- I must remember that life and work is a process that never ends -- like e-mail. I will accept the chronic and persistent waves of email. I must accept email as a part of our modern life.
• Breathe -- I will take regular deep breaths and calm my mind and body whenever I feel nervous or worried.
I have good news for all the Inboxitis sufferers out there: So far, my plan has been working and it will work for you, too. Join me in this challenge.
Let's get out of our inboxes and spend quality time IRL (in real life).
*I created the term Inboxitis for this post.