Help for e-mailaholics in the grip of their inbox
Last updated at 19:53pm on 20th February 2007 Comments
Egan says some addicts waiting for e-mails will send themselves a message if one hasn't shown up in several minutes
It's a tried and tested solution for reforming alcoholics, gamblers and those with a drug problem.
And now a 12-step recovery programme has been drawn up for e-mail addicts.
An expert said that too many workers are more dedicated to their inbox than their professional or social life.
'I call them e-dicted,' said Marsha Egan, a lifestyle coach and author of the 12-Step Cure for E-mail Addiction.
'Many people don't realise that their obsessive e-mail use is actually an e-mail addiction.'
Miss Egan said the first step to recovery, as for any addict, is to accept you have a problem.
'Admit that e-mail is managing you, not the other way around,' she added. 'Let go of your need to check e-mail every ten minutes.'
Her mantra mimics the 12-step programme pioneered by Alcoholics Anonymous and adopted by other anti-addiction groups. These advise addicts to admit they have become 'powerless' in their face of their problem.
Experts agree that e-mail and Internet addiction is a growing problem in the workplace.
Research at Loughborough University last year found that British industry was losing billions because workers were answering e-mails and surfing the web in the office.
It found that one firm with 2,850 employees lost £9.8million a year, with 70 per cent of e-mails being attended to within one minute of their arrival.
On average, researchers discovered, it takes 64 seconds for an employee to recover from an 'e-mail interruption' and return to their work.
'E-mails shouldn't trump the rest of your work, it should just be another factor in your day,' Miss Egan said.
Psychologists think the problem could be more deep-seated than a desire just to keep in touch.
'It could be some emotional issue inside, it could be depression or anxiety, and reading an e-mail solves it for a second,' said Dr Joel Schwartz, chairman of the psychiatry department of Abington Memorial Hospital, Pennsylvania. 'It's like somebody going back 15 times to make sure a door is closed.'
Miss Egan said the solutions to e-mail addiction included turning off automatic send and receive and dealing immediately with any message that took less than two minutes. Anything more complicated should be left until a set period of time later in the day.
She said: 'You don't need to be looking for new messages all the time. The postman delivers mail only once a day and people are happy with that.'
The 12-steps to conquering e-mail obession:
Admit that e-mail is managing you. Let go of your need to check e-mail every ten minutes.
Commit to keeping your inbox empty.
Create files where you can put inbox material that needs to be acted on.
Make broad headings for your filing system so that you have to spend less time looking for filed material.
Deal immediately with any e-mail that can be handled in two minutes or less but create a file for mails that will take longer.
Set a target date to empty your in box. Don't spend more than an hour at a time doing it.
Turn off automatic send/receive.
Establish regular times to review your e-mail.
Involve others in conquering your addiction.
Reduce the amount of e-mail you receive.
Save time by using only one subject per e-mail; delete extra comments from forwarded e-mails, and make the subject line detailed.
Celebrate taking a new approach to e-mail.