The biggest trick about email is that it gives you the feeling you’ve done something. Every time you open an email, your head lights up like a Christmas tree.
Can you imagine sitting outside your snail mail mailbox and opening it up twenty times a day? What a waste of time!
Running on the dopamine trail disrupts your productivity.
What you could do instead is structure your procrastination so you get other stuff done. The father of structured procrastination is Stanford professor John Perry, author of The Art of Procrastination. He writes:
All procrastinators put off things they have to do. Structured procrastination is the art of making this bad trait work for you. The key idea is that procrastinating does not mean doing absolutely nothing. Procrastinators seldom do absolutely nothing; they do marginally useful things, like gardening or sharpening pencils or making a diagram of how they will reorganize their files when they get around to it.John Perry
Repeat: Procrastination does not mean doing nothing
Don’t beat yourself up for avoiding things at the top of the list. Chew on them while you go to work on something else. It’s overthinking and doing nothing that tears you apart.
Note that staying busy does not mean checking Facebook. Social networks and their variable rewards are even more addicting than email.
Keep in mind that you’ll have to put your ass in the chair and dance with the anxiety at some point. If you don’t do the work, you simply don’t care enough.
Procrastinators can be finishers. Until then, reframe procrastination by doing important smaller things.