Continuing my experiments in curbing email usage, I decided not to check email until noon today.
I’ve been checking my email an average of 3 times a day over the last two weeks. I checked email at least once each day, and there was one day where I only checked my email once for the entire day (late in the morning on a Sunday).
Generally though, I’ve been checking my email at about the same times each day:
- 07:00 – First thing in the morning before doing anything else
- 12:00/13:00 – Before or after lunch
- 18:00 – At the end of my work day
Currently, my ultimate goal would be to check email once per day at most.
One Step Forward…
I’ve been thinking about how doing something reactive such as email (where I’m mostly reacting to messages from others) as the first task of my day may be setting a pattern of less action and more reaction for the rest of the day, so this morning I decided to hold off from checking my email until just before lunch.
Two Steps Back
Though I’ve been checking email less often, I’ve noticed that I’m checking forums more frequently for new posts now, which is not really any different from checking for new email. Worse, I’ve started a habit of reading news on my phone upon waking up in the morning– something that was previously off limits.
I need to be more vigilant about not letting other bad habits creep in while I’m focused on my email activities.
Making things difficult
One of the first things I did to curb my email usage was to remove email access from my phone. Push notifications are great, but instantly being alerted every single time I received a new message was not helping me think less about email. In addition to removing the Gmail icon from my home screen, I did something you’re never supposed to do on an Android phone– I turned off the constant flow from Google’s servers. Now if I want to check for new messages, I not only have to scroll through the full list of apps to find the appropriate icon, I also have to manually retrieve new messages.
I know, so difficult. But honestly, this has made a huge difference in how often I pop open Gmail on my phone when I have nothing else to do, effectively stopping this behavior completely. Using email is less convenient across the board now (searching archives, etc.), but I’ll take that in exchange for getting email off the brain.
I’ve also done the same thing with the news reader apps on my phone (Pulse, I love/hate you) so that it takes more effort to check the news. It’s the little things that often make a big difference.
Not that bad (but not that easy)
Though it has not been tremendously difficult, email abstinence throughout the day has not been 100% easy either for a couple reasons:
I’m curious about whether I’ve received any messages. However, thanks to the email tracking I’ve been doing, I know that the bulk of emails I receive are nonessential, which tempers my curiousity somewhat.
When I tire of trying to find a solution to a problem on a project, I want nothing more than a distraction to steal me away for a brief respite. Realizing that this is the reason for wanting to peek into inbox (and find something to distract me), I sit with the feeling for a moment, and then go back to work. It has surprised me how easy it is get back to work after doing this.
In the end, I decided to push “email time” back even later today until after lunch (around 13:00) primarily because it would require just a tiny bit more will-power to do so. I’m not happy when I give in to my curiousity or desire for distraction, so I’ll take any opportunity I can to practice discipline over instant gratification.
- Checked email: 1 time
- Time: 12:56
- Total messages: 12
- Important: 0