Are You Addicted to Your Email Inbox?


Are you sleeping with a portable device next to your pillow so you will not miss an email during the night? If so, you’re certainly not alone. According to AOL’s third annual “Email Addiction” survey, more Americans than ever before are using portable devices to keep tabs on their email throughout the day and night, and from virtually anywhere – bed, cars, and even in bathrooms. OK, yes… I’ll admit it… I’m guilty on all fronts.

Checking your email for the 5th or 50th time today?

In partnership with Opinion Research Corporation, AOL conducted online surveys with over 4,000 respondents age 13 and older in 20 cities around the country to measure their email usage. It showed email use on portable devices has nearly doubled since 2004, and as a result, people are checking email at all hours of the day and night. According to the survey, the average email user checks mail about five times a day, and 59% of those with portable devices are using them to check email every time a new message arrives. Forty-three percent of email users with portable devices say they keep the device nearby when they are sleeping to listen for incoming mail.

Portable devices notwithstanding, 15% of Americans describe themselves as “addicted to email,” and many are even planning their vacations with email access in mind. Approximately 4 in 10 email users say it is “very” or “somewhat” important to them to think about email accessibility when they are planning a vacation, and 83% of email users admit to checking their mail once a day while actually on vacation.

Other significant findings I found interesting:

  • Washington D.C. is most email addicted city in the country. Eighty-two percent of DC-residents have multiple email accounts — the highest percentage of any city in the survey. Rounding out the top 10 cities addicted to email are: 2.) Atlanta; 3.) New York; 4.) San Francisco; 5.) Houston; 6.) Los Angeles; 7.) Seattle; 8.) Orlando; 9.) Denver; and 10.) Miami. Yes, Denver-ites, we made the Top 10 List!
  • Americans are emailing anywhere and everywhere. Fifty-nine percent of people emailing from portable devices are checking email in bed in while in their pajamas; 53% in the bathroom; 37% are checking email while they drive; and 12% admit to checking email in church.
  • Forty-three percent of email users check their email first thing in the morning, and 40% have checked their email in the middle of the night. Twenty-six percent admit to checking email on a laptop in bed while in their pajamas.
  • Sixty percent of people who use email admit to checking their personal email at work an average of three times a day. While only 15% of those who do so have been “busted” by their bosses, 28% say they feel guilty about it.

Dealing with an email addiction (we use the term loosely):

An email addiction has less to do with curbing an obsession than it does with proper time and email management.

  • Organize: Try using folders provided in most email programs to file messages appropriately. Simple drag and drop technology allows you to file your messages by category, and can help avoid repetitive communication.
  • Use the Away Message: If you feel compelled to answer every email as it comes in, use your away message to let people know you’ve stepped away from email for the day (or night or week), and will respond when you return. This helps curb against expectation of immediacy.
  • Follow the Rule of Three: If you have emailed back and forth with the same person on the same topic more than three times, it’s probably time to pick up the phone or walk down the hall or across the street and have a conversation.

If you just got to the bottom of this column & read the whole thing, it’s probably time to go check your email!

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