TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Twelve-Step Program Aims to Cure EMail Addiction

Twelve-Step Program Aims to Cure EMail Addiction

Jon Hurdle (
Wed, 21 Feb 2007 00:36:29 -0600

By Jon Hurdle

Alcoholics have one, and so do drug abusers. Now people addicted to
e-mail also have a 12-step program designed to tackle their obsession.

An executive coach in Pennsylvania has devised a plan to teach people
how to manage the electronic tool, which some users say can be as much
an intrusive waste of time as it is fast-paced and efficient.

Developed for cases such as a golfer who checked his BlackBerry after
every shot, and lost a potential client who wanted nothing to do with
his obsession, Marsha Egan's plan taps into deepening concern that
e-mail misuse can cost businesses millions of dollars in lost

"There is a crisis in corporate America, but a lot of CEOs don't know
it," Egan said. "They haven't figured out how expensive it is."

One of Egan's clients cannot walk by a computer -- her own or anyone
else's -- without checking for messages. Other people will not
vacation anywhere they cannot connect to their e-mail systems. Some
wait for e-mails and send themselves a message if one hasn't shown up
in several minutes, Egan said.

The first of Egan's 12 steps is "admit that e-mail is managing
you. Let go of your need to check e-mail every 10 minutes."

Other steps include "commit to keeping your inbox empty," "establish
regular times to review your e-mail" and "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."

Egan says she hosts no 12-step meetings but is planning a monthly
teleconference for "e-mailers anonymous."


Michelle Grace, an insurance agent in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, said
she receives up to 60 e-mails a day and uses Egan's program to make it
less time-consuming and less stressful.

"E-mail had me by the throat," she said. "When you can't find what you
need, then it becomes a problem."

Now that her e-mails are transferred -- some manually and some
automatically -- into files, Grace said she spends less time hunting
for them.

On average, workers who receive an e-mail take four minutes to read it
and recover from the interruption before they can resume working
productively, Egan said.

She also recommends checking e-mails not more than three or four times
a day.

Some employees resist the lure of e-mail during the regular workday,
only to find themselves putting in extra hours at home to clear the
backlog, she said. One of Egan's clients said he had 3,600 e-mails in
his inbox.

Part of the problem is senders who copy messages too widely and are
too vague in their subject lines, so recipients don't know what they
need to open right away, Egan said.

For Grace, relief from her e-mail addiction means she is not checking
her computer every five minutes.

She said she has let her colleagues know that if they need to reach
her immediately, e-mail is not the way to do it.

"I told them, 'If you need me urgently, pick up the phone,"' she said.

Copyright 2007 Reuters Limited.

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