Habits are driven by our believes and consists of 3 elements: cue, routine, and reward. For example if you believe that emails need to be answered within 24 hours, the habits sequence most likely looks like that:
- Cue: an email you receive
- Routine: you answer it immediately
- Reward: the pleasure you get from pressing the send button
You can change your habit if you change your reaction to the cue that triggers it. In order to do that, you need to alter your believes about the habit itself and create rewards for the new anticipated reaction.
So if you want to reduce your time spend on emails, say your new believe is that a research project you are working on is more important, then change the cue. You could for example set your email client to receive message only once a day, change the notification setting or create a different user on your computer for emails so you are required to logout and login to check your mails. Once you have changed the cue, you will experience a new routine.
To support and strengthen the new habit, make sure you put good rewards in place. If your new project is a long and enduring research paper which does not give you instant pleasure (there is not send button), you could use a timer that rings every half an hour to give yourself 5 minutes snack brakes.