The 12-Step Program for Email Addicts

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has an excellent article discussing email addiction and what to do about it. It’s the type of thing you laugh about with words like “CrackBerry” until you realize that professionals (including time-management experts, professors of psychiatry and family studies, and family counseling therapists) have weighed in on the subject and consider it closely related to Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. Luckily, they’ve compiled a 12-step program for the email addict:

1. During meals, do not check email.

2. Do not hide your email habits from family members. If you feel that someone would be upset to see you BlackBerrying, it’s a sign that you probably shouldn’t be.

3. Commit to stop emailing while driving (even at red lights), walking across the street or doing anything that requires careful attention.

4. Do not check email for the first hour of the day. In addition to giving you time to leisurely read the newspaper or spend time with your family, the practice will help you shake the tic-like checking ritual.

5. Endeavor to leave the mobile email device in the car or at home when attending any function taking place at your child’s school, or when picking up your child from school.

6. Decide on an email-free block of time. Parents should first assess their child’s conversational patterns — some like to talk about their day immediately after school, others just before bedtime. Even if your child doesn’t seem interested in talking, stick to your promise not to email during that time.

7. Set boundaries at work: Alert your colleagues that your mobile email device will be turned off during the predetermined time slot.

8. Actually turn off your device and stick it in a drawer during the time you’ve designated as email-free.

9. If you are in the middle of a work crisis, still try to respect some boundaries. Consider blocking out a few 15-minute periods to check email — and then turn the device off again. Honestly assess whether the situation at work is an actual crisis that can’t be solved without your oversight.

10. When emailing while socializing or spending time with your family, ask yourself if your priority at that moment is enjoying after-work activities or getting work done. If it is the former, power-down. If it’s the latter, return to the office.

11. Upon arriving home, practice a ritual that helps you mentally separate the work day from the after-work evening. Light a candle, put on music, pour a cocktail. Don’t check your email during this time.

12. If mobile email overuse creates tension between you and your significant other, consider creating jointly agreed-upon BlackBerry-free zones. For instance, unless your bedroom doubles as a home office, consider maintaining it as a sanctuary of your personal life.

Not surprisingly, the Wall Street Journal had a related article (this one free to readers) called “BlackBerry Orphans,” which discusses resentful children of CrackBerry parents. Funny how we’ve gone full circle from “kids addicted to video games” to “parents addicted to email.” Parents and kids just might have more in common than we once thought!

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