Stress, Email and Personal Change 

Stress is ubiquitous and many people are struggling.   This week I received an email from a man in a demanding job.  He shared an unusual account of altering how he orients to his email.  I think it is worth sharing his practices and worthy considering the larger issue of self-improvement.

There are two work patterns that tend to pull me down.  First, every day at work, I receive a handful of emails that I don’t know how to handle.  I have to puzzle them out, and often I have to reach out to someone else for help.  But I resist this.  The first time I read such an email, I often give it a cursory reading and go on, telling myself I’ll come back to it.  When I avoid the work, I start to carry it as an invisible burden.

Second, I often don’t listen as well as I could.  Every day, I face a strong temptation to tune out someone so I can “get things done.”  Instead of paying attention to a meeting, I try to “multitask”; ironically, this practice ends up increasing my workload because I miss information, I have to ask others to repeat themselves, and in doing so I hurt the fine tendrils of connection.  The bottom line is multitasking often increases my stress level because I’m doing something I know I shouldn’t.

This week I made two changes.  First, I felt an impression to spend the extra five minutes to read the email, face the difficulty, and decide on a next step.  This unnatural act has made a big difference.  Second, my wife made a suggestion that made an even bigger difference.  She suggested that I might start seeing my emails as people.  I could consider the person behind each email.  I tried this and I could feel my work take on greater meaning and purpose.

I find his personal changes interesting.  What I find more interesting is his orientation to personal change.  Instead to being a slave to his personal habits, this man is constantly examining himself and experimenting.  He is continually inventing new best practices.  In doing so he is slowly creating a more abundant life.



  • Does email ever contribute to your stress level? Is it possible to experiment with new patterns of handling your email?
  • Do you constantly seek to discover personal best practices, do you teach others to do the same and to share what they learn?
  • What new best practice could increase the introduction of best practices by everyone?
  • How could we use this passage to create a more positive organization?