by Aye Moah, Chief of Product at Boomerang
Whether heading to Lollapalooza or just spending a long weekend barbecuing with friends and family, young entrepreneurs should take advantage of the summer season to disconnect from work and enjoy a well-earned vacation. While the idea of signing-off sounds amazing, in today’s world where we’re “always on,” it can be especially tough to completely shut off and step away from growing your startup or business. Often times, the main source dragging you back into the office is your email, a vital resource for business communication that can make it difficult to step away when trying to get some quality R&R.
Being able to enjoy a vacation and disconnect from work is healthy for your well-being. Vacations lower stress and will help you re-energize so that you meet your goals, yet, 66% of full-time employees in the U.S. struggle with their work/life balance. A work/life balance can be even tougher at a startup, where owners are expected to put in a lot of extra time outside of the standard 9-5 work hours, which leads to emails constantly flooding the inbox. On average, email users receive 147 emails per day, and they don’t stop when you step away from the office or go on vacation. The constant buzz from your phone can quickly take you away from the time that should be spent with friends and families.
If you’re looking for another reason to stop checking email every minute of the day, it reduces your stress level – which is the purpose of your summer vacation. To combat the constant email messages from taking over your summer vacation, consider the following tips – which can also be applied to work happy hours, team outings, or any other time you’re looking to disconnect:
Make your inbox work for you.
According to a 2016 study, employees spend an average of eight hours per week answering work-related emails after leaving the office. Many also admit to working on vacation or bringing work materials on social outings, which is why you should consider a 3rd party extension that can pause your inbox and stop the barrage of messages altogether. Other options include creating filters to only deliver emails from certain people or setting your inbox to deliver new emails only at select times you decide. Email doesn’t have to hold you hostage – find the right tools and make them work for you!
Defer non-urgent messages until later.
Young entrepreneurs can be quick to respond to emails, but research from Carnegie Mellon University shows that 37% of emails don’t need attention immediately, but will need to be addressed at a later date. Some tactics you can consider are an email reminder service, archiving non-urgent messages, or stashing them in a temporary folder, but regardless of the way you go about it, deferring emails provides you with a strategy to address messages without sacrificing your down time. PR annoying you about a press release that’s not going out until the fall? Stash it away to come back to at a more appropriate time.
Limit how many times you check your email a day.
If you absolutely must respond to your email while away, pre-set times to do so and then make that the immediate focus and commit to acting on each email. Research suggests that limiting the number of times a day that you check email or work-chat services—from, say, 10 or 20 to three or four—cannot only reduce stress levels but also increase overall productivity. Ask questions like: “Does the email require immediate action? Will I need it today? Can I finish it in three minutes?” If it’s something you can handle immediately, address it and move onto the next. Your focus should always be on the next email in your inbox. Make sure each message gets your full attention for a direct amount of time so that you can make a decision on what to do with it at that time before moving on – and getting back to lounging in the pool!
Summer should be spent outdoors with friends and family – not in front of computer screens or glued to mobile phones. Disconnecting can be a challenge for young entrepreneurs because there’s so much focus on growing the business, but with careful planning and proper expectation setting, disconnecting is beneficial to all involved. Avoiding emails allows young entrepreneurs to recharge so that they can get back to work with a clear mind, ready to go.
Aye Moah is the co-founder and CPO of Boomerang, makers of thoughtful productivity software that helps you focus on what matters. Moah is an experienced public speaker on productivity, entrepreneurship, artificial intelligence and product design. Her thoughts on these topics can be found on publications such as Forbes, WSJ, CNBC, Fast Company, Inc, and Business Insider.