The War on Email

Cartoon about using email

I am constantly challenged by email.

On the one hand, I love it!

I am subscribed to all sorts of interesting people. Almost everything I learn online comes to me through email. I love hearing from people who read my work. And it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends.

The problem is, I often check it far more than I need to. I could still read all the emails and answer all that I need to, without the constant checking.


I am now, however, a fan of seriously restricting how I use it. The rewards are incredible. I get at least twice as much done in a day. Often more. And, when I do use it, I’m more focused and clear headed.

It makes sense when you think about it.

Every time you check your email it breaks up your rhythm. While you’re busy seeing who has emailed you, you’re filling in the spaces where creative ideas pop up in. It stops us figuring out the really hard stuff.

Consider these 6 strategies for using email successfully:

  1. Don’t have your email application open in the background—Close. It. Down.
  2. Read and answer emails at set times—once or twice a day
  3. Set up “rules” so favorite emails go straight into a folder to read later
  4. Unsubscribe from emails you no longer read—not my newsletter!! Just kidding. Even mine, if it’s cluttering up your life.
  5. Answer emails when you read them—for those emails that take less than 5 minutes to respond to.
  6. Remove email from your phone—or at least turn of the bleep that signals a new message

Please please please inspire me with stories of what you get done when you limit how you use it! I’d love to hear from you!





PS: The title of this email was inspired by the very wonderful book The War of Art, by Stephen Pressfield.  A must read it you want to create anything! It talks about the resistance we feel at the end of a project that can completely derail us if we’re not careful.


  1. Candice says:

    Lisa – such a great reminder, thank you! I completely agree on your strategy for email checking. Unfortunately, I cannot completely do that at work since emails are an integral part of my job. However, I have learned to screen what I need to get to right away vs. waiting. At work, we utilize Outlook which is great because a little pop up shows who it is from and what the subject is regarding. If it is from my boss or a customer I can click on it and read right away.
    At home, I have a completely different strategy. I check it once MAYBE twice a day, but I also do not have as many followers as you do to keep up with ;-)
    Happy 4th!

  2. Vanessa Fear says:

    Hey Lisa .. :) great article and cartoon :) Like Candice I have to have email open during work times, but I too close it down when I’m off duty. My weakness is Facebook. I know, I know … Close. It. Down….. :)

    • Work emails. That’s a whole other thing, isn’t it. Although, given how much more productive we can be when we don’t use it, I wonder if it would be more useful for workplaces not to use it so much. I guess it depends on the workplace!

      But it is a fascinating thing, isn’t it, how we get hooked on these things. It’s like a drug. And we’re all the same! Whatever one we use. Well, most of us are. I’ve dabbled in being less connected. But wow, over the past few weeks, I’ve been not checking it at all until lunchtime (ok not today), and it is truly amazing.

      Thanks Vanessa, nice to hear from you again!

  3. becky says:

    this is something to consider, since it becomes a daily habit.
    thank you!

  4. Janet says:

    Hi Lisa,

    I totally agree with the ‘monster’ that is my email inbox ;)

    This email address (yes I have 2 one work one personal) is full of “inspirational, self help blah blah blah” newsletters that I have signed up for, with the thought “maybe I can be a better me, if I just do this or change that” and of course once you sign up for one, all and I mean ALL their affiliates jump on the band wagon…”Oooh here’s a new thought system you simply MUST have and it only costs $$$” *sigh*
    I had a ‘light bulb’ moment or epiphany the other day as I scanned the ever growing beast, I realised “I am enough”…and…I don’t need others to tell me how to live my life.
    I can guarantee you that I will, mess up, screw up and laugh most of the time, but folks it’s my life! I then unsubscribed from all but a few (yours is definitely here to stay) and breathed a sigh of relief. Now the beast is under control and if I don’t check it for a few days it doesn’t matter…I am in control =)

  5. Rachel says:

    Hi Lisa,
    Happy Fourth of July! I just wanted to say thank you for the welcome reminder to limit habits that become obstructive to creativity. And also I wanted to say thank you for everything you do. I read everything and get excited about your (italicised) emails everytime. Thank you for making a difference in my life.

    A Rachel in Florida.

    • Thanks Rachel. Really do appreciate the shout out. And I love to hear that you enjoy my emails/articles. Happy 4th in Florida! (Hope it’s calmer there than here. We live on Venice Beach. Madness out there! Which is why I’m sitting inside drawing on my computer!)

  6. Suzanne Nelson says:

    Hi Lisa!
    Love this post – so wise! I nearly always have the ringer turned off my phone, much to the annoyance of people trying to get hold of me; but seriously? How much is that urgent? Recently I had to turn off the vibrate button to cut down on unwanted noise if the phone is set on a hard surface. I used to think this was a useful feature until without it for a few days I found it was actually really nice not be interrupted, have my attention drawn elsewhere even if I chose to ignore it; way better not to even have to make that choice! I love my phone and all it can do, wouldn’t be without it and now it doesn’t summon me constantly I feel it’s found it’s rightful place as a useful tool in the background ;)

  7. Buddhacrone says:

    Little slow here-computer died for a couple of weeks before everything was fixed. Since the computer is my window on the world, that was *really* interesting. My cell-phone is nonsmart, so I was just thrown entirely on my own resources. 1. caught up on all sorts of reading 2. summer TV really sucks-don’t watch much anyway and now see why. 3. actually did more meditating than I have been doing. YAY! 4. did more with garden plants than usual. They loved it. 5. Dog loved more attention 6. I am now deleting many lists I don’t really need. 7. Am now NOT darting to computer first thing in the morning.
    And the benefits go on…. :-) Never too old to learn something, hey?
    Love yr posts. I learn all sorts of wonderful things. Thank you!

    • Ooh, that does sound like a happy accident. It is so addictive, all this online stuff. I feel totally different too, when I unplug. Thanks for sharing – very inspiring!

  8. Email completely derails your creativity and your priorities …. you end up responding and taking care of other people’s priorities. I check my email first thing in the morning to make sure I attend to anything my boss needs ASAP – then I close it up and take care of my priorities for the day. I have found that many things in my email get handled without my involvement! And for those things that are important, people come and find me. They usually start with “did you get my email?” — I just say “no” so they explain the issue and we deal with it. I agree with you … closing down email and checking it infrequently and on a schedule is the single most important thing you can do to increase your own productivity!

    • Love hearing how you manage email! Very inspiring. Interesting how most things get sorted by themselves. It’s so easy to fire off an email, rather than try and sort something out. Thanks for stopping by=)

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