Defeating Email

Before Kim and I got married, my afterwork routine was generally:

  1. Come home.
  2. Check work email.
  3. Cook dinner.
  4. Check work email.
  5. Relax and watch a movie or an episode of television.
  6. Check work email.
  7. Get ready for bed.
  8. Check work email.

Sound familiar? I’d unlock my phone during a moment of downtime, see that little red email badge, open up my email and get sucked in. Sometimes just a quick triage, sometimes a short reply, sometimes a stressful sigh followed by getting out my laptop and composing something more substantial.

Then something magical happened: we went on our honeymoon. Before we left, I deleted my work email from all of my devices. And the following two weeks were so glorious that when we got back, I left it off and haven’t put it back on since. When I tell people that my work email isn’t on my phone I get weird looks followed up with “how’s that working out for you?”

It’s working out great.

When we got back to work, I figured out one important thing: I can open my work email in mobile Safari. So now, each morning when I get to the office, I open a new tab and login to my work Gmail. And then in the evening as soon as we leave the office, I delete the tab. It’s the same on my personal laptop at home: if I think of something I forgot to do, or leave work still needing to complete a couple of things, I open a new tab then close it immediately when I’m done. My downtime is now, almost exclusively, my down time. My chance to recharge.

And you know what? My productivity and work haven’t taken the hit. The stuff that happens after-hours is still there in the morning when I sit down with my coffee. The world hasn’t ended. No one has been upset (I don’t think most of my coworkers have even noticed). The biggest difference is that now, when I do open up my email and read through today’s questions, today’s complexities, that those things are actually actionable. Because it’s daytime. People are awake and ready to have conversations and are capable of solving problems.

The best part is that I’m no longer a slave to that stupid, stupid red badge. Now, because the only email on my devices is my personal one, the red badge is a happy thing. It means a friend wants to get dinner, or is in town and wants to catch up. It means the Kickstarter I joined got fully funded. It means a trip is coming up.

It doesn’t mean work.


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