E-mail 12-step program creator interviewed!


How did you refine the 12-steps? Were there some methods that worked better than others? Has this been tried and tested out by an addicts yet?

The 12 steps are a formula that I evolved, working with email-challenged clients. It starts with on the person declaring that he or she wants to change their e-mail habits, and take ownership or a proactive approach to managing their e-mail. It is focused on helping people realize that they can take control, then gives them the actual steps to taking control. These steps include checking email when it fits YOUR schedule, not when you hear the “ding” on your computer, changing your view of the inbox from a holding tank to a mail delivery receptacle, then helping them file items to be worked in separate action folders that they can grab when they are planning their days.

We’ve tried this approach with over 300 folks on our teleseminars, and have heard great comments. The biggest challenge is for people to engrain the practices, and make them “good habits.” Our website is intended to be helpful to people wanting to improve their habits:

What are your plans for the recovery program? Are there plans for virtual or non-virtual support groups?

Again, not being a psychologist or psychiatrist, I cannot get into making any plans for a recovery program. Our focus has been to help people change habits that have not served them well, and to become as productive as possible with their e-mail, so that they will have time for other things that are important to them. We are planning to offer, for an annual subscription, a “productive e-mailers” support group, where people can share their tips on how to be most productive with their e-mail. We also offer teleseminars, workshops, etc. to help people remain productive and combat email mis-use that may not have reached the addiction stage.

How can someone recognize when they have an email addiction problem?

Psychiatrists have told me that some of the signals include a dependency behavior, possible obsession with e-mail, a warped sense of reality as it
relates to how e-mail is impacting his or her life, or behavior that is harmful to an individual’s career, personal life, or the lives of those around him or her.

What are your thoughts on BlackBerrys – a device that keeps us connected more than ever? And on a larger scale, how do you feel about this “2.0 Society” where there seems to be an actual need to be connected at all times?

I think BlackBerrys are a great invention. I have one, and I love having it. I speak professionally all over the country, and no longer have
to take my laptop with me on business trips. However, because of its immediate connectivity, it can have potential to feed some of the unproductive habits that people have around their e-mail management. This is very individual, and it is up to the Blackberry user to adopt the most productive habits possible.

E-mail and PDA’s are here to stay. Our biggest challenge is to manage our e-mail and PDA usage so that it enhances our lives, rather than takes from it. That means different things for different people. It is important that you know yourself, your business, and what works best for you, and to focus on making sure you are the most productive in in control of how you manage the technology you can possibly be.

What’s the worst e-mail addiction-related tale you’ve ever had come your way?

Whether it is addiction related, a bad habit, or just obsessive, the worst behavioral example I personally have witnessed was to have played golf with a business man who checked his BlackBerry after every shot. While it was annoying, to say the least, the golfer didn’t realize he was being assessed as a possible business partner by one of the others in the foursome. After the game was over, the other party indicated he didn’t want to have anything to do with that Blackberry focused golfer.

Apart from the 12 step program you’ve created, do you have any helpful hints for e-mail addicts?

The biggest shift I would hope to see is for people to take ownership of how they manage their e-mail. We can’t make it go away, but we can manage how and when we retrieve and respond to the e-mail that we receive. We are spending unnecessary time scrolling through the e-mail in our inbox to decide what it is we’re going to work on, and letting some of the less important items distract us from the most important items we should be working on.

I like to encourage people to go back to the time management principles that work — taking time each day to plan your day, using not only the e-mail you’ve received but all the other items that constitute tasks, and making a work plan for the day, making room for what is truly important, and minimizing distractions that don’t serve you well…

Thanks again, Marsha. Just as she said, to learn more about her and her efforts, head to her website. Take THAT, CNN.