Do you check email too often?

It seems like the obvious answer is no, right?  Is it possible to be too on top of it?  Can you be too informed?

A couple of articles I’ve read lately have lead me to believe that yes, it is possible to be too informed.

Let’s take a look at Dan Ariely’s (you might recognize the name… he’s an author of very interesting books about human behavior like Predictably Irrational) new post called The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People:

4) Checking email too much. If it seems that there’s too much about email on this list, I assure you, there isn’t. Checking email is addictive in the same way gambling is. You see, years back the famous psychologist B.F. Skinner discovered that rats would work much harder if the rewards were unpredictable (rather than a treat every 5 times they pressed a bar, one would come after 4, then 13, etc). This is the same as email, most of it is junk, but every so often, it’s fantastic: an email from the woman you’ve been chasing for instance. So we distract ourselves from work by constantly checking and checking and waiting to hit the email jackpot. And to be perfectly honest, I’ve checked my email at least 30 times since starting writing this article.

Just like Dan says… it’s not much different than gambling.  And then there was this copy of the New York Times floating around our office for the last week.  The cover story is called Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price.

Scientists say juggling e-mail, phone calls and other incoming information can change how people think and behave. They say our ability to focus is being undermined by bursts of information.

The article is excellent in its entirity, and if you work with a computer I encourage you to read it.  Basically we are re-wiring our brains with constantly checking and checking and checking email and otherwise.  And it’s causing a loss of creativity and we lose a sense of well-being in environments that don’t stimulate us as much as computers, tvs, and cell phones.

Kind of scary right?  But what can be done in our world of ever-increasing connectedness?  Easy: drop out.

Well, don’t drop out in the bad sense.  Don’t become a flake.  Don’t destroy your reputation and ditch your commitments.  But do planned drop-out sessions.  Zen Habits calls it a Media Fast, and the Four Hour Workweek guy calls it a Mini-Retirement.  Whatever you call it… just make sure to actually do it every once in a while.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had about 4 different drop-out sessions.  They’ve taken me across the USA, into South America, into Central America, and taken me to homes in 5 different states.  They’ve been an excellent experience and I always came back from these drop-out sessions with a renewed sense of hope and a ton of ideas for my business.

I leave you with this excellent video from TED about the value of a planned Sabatical.  And not just one, either.  Watch the video and be forever changed.