Caging the Email Monster
Oh, email. The necessary evil. On our computers, on our phones, on our minds, bleeding into every piece of our day.
When I talked with Jenn from Roots of She about self-care a few weeks back, one of the things we touched on was once-a-day email as self-care. I got more than a few responses to that, mostly along the lines of “oh, I wish I could!” and “gasp!” and “how do you even do that!?!”. I think we can all agree that it’s a massive time suck, right? That we spend so much time checking and scanning and mentally ticking the “I’ll do it later” box and waiting and checking again that email becomes part of every second of every day, with a few notable and “oh, wow, it felt so good to disconnect” exceptions?
For all the stress and anxiety around email, there seem to be an equal number of systems to help you tame it – things like “inbox zero” and filtering and “touch it once” and so on. They exist, they work if that’s your thing.
They’re not my thing.
So I’m not going to give you a system. Or a step-by-step. Or a guide. Or even, necessarily, my methods.
Instead, I’m going to do my best to share my motivations, the things that led me to create a once a day email practice, and the steps I took to get there, in hopes that you can create your own practice – one that rocks your world. (My world’s already pretty rocked, after all.)
It’s too much to ask for and I am not the doctor
The ego-bubble-bursting realization that you are really not that important is a tough thing to go through. It was a necessary one for me, though. One day, a few years back, after having spent yet another *entire day* doing nothing but answering, reading, sorting, and poking at emails, I had a chat with myself. “Self,” I said, “you just aren’t that important.”
There is nothing so important in my inbox that can’t wait 12-24 hours. Really, truly. No one is going to die, be irreparably damaged, or otherwise harmed by my lack of response. I’m not that important. (I’m still awesome – but I’m not that important.)
The question to ask: “If I were ill, or asleep, or tending to a loved one, if it were the morning of my favorite holiday, would this email keep until tomorrow?” I think you’ll find that the answer is almost always “yes”.
You deserve my full attention
For someone who does a once-a-day email thing, I probably spend more time with email than most. Why? Here’s my soapbox spiel: if someone takes the time to engage in conversation with you, they deserve your full attention. Not your thumbs, not a brief glance and quick reply on a keyboard the size of my stapler – your full attention. You wouldn’t (I hope) have a real-life, in-person conversation with someone while doing 5 other things, right? (end soapbox)
So I treat email conversations like they’re conversations with the people that sent them. Because to me, they are. Yep, it takes time. And yes, it does mean that sometimes I take a day or two to respond. It’s not a rule or a system, it’s a personal preference, plain and simple.
The question to ask: “How do my email conversations fit into my world, and the way I want to communicate with the people around me? It’s super-important to note that there are no wrong answers here – only you can decide what’s right for you.
Rules are meant to be broken
I sometimes check email on weekends. And before every meeting, in case something has changed. Depending on my schedule, I might do email twice – or not at all.
For me, it wasn’t about finding the perfect set of rules. It was about setting boundaries so that email didn’t fill up my life. (And extending these ideas to social media and chat, too.)
The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed by email (or, yanno, if it’s a Tuesday), try asking yourself why. Why you’re in your email to begin with. What space you want it to hold in your world. How it fits into your ideals, your goals, your preferences.
And maybe, just maybe, step away from your inbox.
Want to join me?