Do you know that feeling of anxiety and dissatisfaction that comes from having unread emails waiting for us in the Arrival Mail box? Or the frustration that comes with someone misunderstands what we have written? Well, it’s a more common problem than you might think.
The theme has recently been scientifically addressed by Jocelyn K. Glei, an American journalist and writer who deals with the world of work, creativity and career. In her latest book Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done, the author analyzes the reasons for the anxiety from email.
We’re like rats. A 1930-old psychology study shows that laboratory rats are much more motivated by receiving random rewards (push a lever and sometimes receive food) than by certain fixed-term rewards (push the lever 100 times to get food).
In some ways, the e-mail uses a similar mechanism. When we open our Inbox we don’t know what we’ll find inside: it’s often annoyance or work problems, but once in a while something nice happens, our reward. And this triggers a mechanism of dependence from which it can be difficult to get rid of.
Mission accomplished. How well do we feel when we have completed a task or finished a job? It all depends on our brain, which, when we achieve a goal, for example, respond to all emails, releases dopamine.
But completely emptying the e-mail box is practically impossible, because messages are coming in all the time. As we dispose of the mail in stock, we feel like we are approaching the target and the resulting feeling of happiness related to the release of dopamine. But a new message is already waiting to move our target a little further.