I like to collate these ideas and try them out from time to time. As I say often, where once professional success rested in an ability to accumulate information (research, data collate etc), now it’s firmly rooted in an ability to block it.
I say this, too: Where once life balance boundaries were delineated for us (via 9-5 workdays, respecting the Sabbath etc), they now have to be marked and maintained by the individual.
And this is something few of us comprehend. I truly think a lot of us are waiting for some hand of God to dip down and finally, concretely decide that It’s Bloody Time To Turn Off The Phone.
There are some bold types however who pop up with their own Deus ex machination. Here’s a few to perhaps inspire your own e-boundary maintenance:
1. Set an auto-reply that actually works. I start with the regular Out Of Office (OOO) that says Hi, I’m away, back on such-and-such etc. At the end, I suggest that if the matter remains important after my return, the sender re-sends their email then. Which effectively pushes the onus back on the sender to pin me down for an answer.
2. Delete your personal email account. Mat Honan, BuzzFeed’s San Francisco bureau chief, decided that the burden of personal e-mail was simply to heavy to bear. E-mails sent to his personal account now get a response saying, “I no longer use personal email. Please contact me via another method.”
3. Don’t be Google. People can get lazy with emails, firing off a question that can easily be Googled or nutted out with a little time and care. I used to reply politely to these emails. Now I just press delete.
4. Practice email annihilation. Don’t leave emails with uncomfortable replies to pile up unanswered
forever. Read this New Yorker article about how to practice E-Mail Debt Forgiveness Day every day and feel the relief.
5. Change your email signature. P. J. Vogt, host of Reply All, a podcast about life and the internet, recently changed his e-mail signature to say that his messages were being sent from his phone, even when he was writing on a computer, so he could send shorter replies without raising eyebrows. (For particularly fraught work e-mails, he often asked co-host Alex Goldman to draft them for him.)
6. Leave work emails at work. Research suggests we work smarter when our parameters are narrowed. So why not try leaving work on time? The CFO of Facebook does!
7. Quit the Sunday afternoon email habit. Observe restful Sundays like our Grandparents did. (I use my Sundays for bushwalking and exploring instead.) I don’t set aside a few hours to catch up on emails. I find my Mondays kick off calmer and happier without a Sunday kerfuffle.
8. Set aside time for Clear Days. Take time to read, reflect and flesh out creative ideas and ban yourself from checking your inbox. They do it at Google. It’s called 20 Per Cent Time and allows employees to spend a day a week working on side projects. I do this regularly on Thursdays…a day set aside for Space And Creativity.
9. Unsubscribe. I regularly remove myself from unnecessary lists and databases. I don’t sign up for newsletters or “updates”.
What do you think? How do you break away from your inbox?