Last night I got the chance to relax on a beautiful backyard porch home to a number of potted tomato plants, herbs and ivy – even the occasional rabbit. Trees and singing birds surround its high walls - it is a little haven of nature in the middle of the city.

Being from the country, I appreciate any chance I get to ‘commune with nature,’ a practice critical to my mental well-being. As I sat there grateful for my good fortune, I couldn’t help but think, “Wow this is beautiful! I wonder if I have any new e-mail!”

Wait – What?! Am I for real? Did I just think about checking e-mail in the middle of communing with nature? It took me a minute to realize there was anything even wrong with this. Constant connectivity is so ingrained into our daily lives that it is hard to be aware of the danger in this tendency.

How can I sit in a little nest of nature and desire to distract myself with spam email and business e-newsletters? How has it become so hard to shut down and shut off?

I believe it has something to do with our basic desire as humans to feel connected to one another. Because of this need it was very easy for mobile, omnipresent technology to pervade our daily routines and establish ‘checking e-mail’ - nearly immediately - as a regular, hard-wired habit.

Read on for my tips on how best to combat chronic e-mail checking. I cannot promise you that it is an easy transition (as I am clearly still struggling with this one) but what I can promise is that being present where you are – in nature, in a meeting, with loved ones – will have a far, far greater impact on your life then the e-mail that just landed in your inbox.

How to Combat Chronic E-mail Checking

Commit to checking your e-mail only when you have time to process your e-mail as well (i.e. deleting, delegating, deferring, and actually doing the work)

Schedule specific e-mail processing sessions throughout the day and stick to them

Be aware of how often ‘checking e-mail’ accomplishes nothing expect distracting you from productive work or sending you off on another task of lesser priority

Remember that it takes on average 15 - 20 minutes to get back to task after being interrupted (like checking e-mail)

Turn off those seductive, flashy e-mail notifiers on your computer and blackberry – take back control over technology!

Decide when your inbox is ‘open’ and ‘closed’, make this public if necessary

Set the precedent for your e-mail responsiveness – remember that the fastest responder almost never equals the most productive employee

Teach others how you wish to be treated – if you always respond on Sundays or late at night, you will continue receiving e-mails on Sundays and late at night

“Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention." - Jim Rohn