A strange thing happened the other day: I typed “gmail” without even thinking about it.
What’s more, I wasn’t even using a web browser.
This might be a problem.
Sprung a Leak
I always knew that Gmail was a great time-waster, particularly when procrastinating. It was always fun to see if someone had sent you a new message, especially when you had something more important to do.
However, I now realized that checking Gmail had leaked into my subconscious. During a lull in my work, when I was thinking about what to type next, my fingers went on walkabout and tapped out “Gmail” all on their own.
What is it they say about “idle hands”?
Fixing the Leak
I hold no fondness for unconscious actions, so I’m taking email checking back from my subconscious and placing it firmly in the land of purposeful intent.
For the next 30 days, I’ll be focusing on complete and total email domination.
I Have a Plan
After some reflection, it became clear that one of the primary reasons I check email throughout the day is so that I don’t miss an important message (i.e. from family, friends, clients, etc.). Therefore, if I knew that there were no important messages, then I would be less inclined to check email. To that end, I have begun tracking various metrics whenever I check email:
Date & Time
This is to help me see if there any patterns in when I load up Gmail. Mostly in the morning, the afternoon, or evenly spread out throughout the day? How late do I check email (i.e. do I stop checking email by a certain time)? Simply put, I want to see if I’m more of an every-five-minute email checker or more of the once-an-hour variety.
New Message Count
How many new emails are there? Along with the date/time data, I’ll get a better idea of how many emails I get each day as well as when the bulk of the messages arrive.
This is a simple yes/no metric– were there any important messages when I checked my email this time? I suspect that I don’t get nearly enough important messages to warrant the amount of times I check email throughout the day (approx. 3-5 times/day). This will tell me whether I’m justified in frequent email checking as well as how often important messages arrive (when paired with the date/time data) and what the ratio of important emails to non-important emails is (when paired with the new message count).
Why am I checking email this time? I can select from 3 options:
- First of Day
- Last of Day
As you might surmise, I have a sinking suspicion that much of the email checking I do throughout the day (save for the first and last checks) is borne out of habit. Therefore, I’m fixin’ to shame myself each time I needlessly check email because if it’s not the first or the last check of the day, my only other option is to mark it as an action incited by habit (i.e. not for any true purpose).
True, there may be instances where there is a genuine purpose for loading up Gmail, but my hope is that since I’ll have to mark it as “habit” anyway, I will think long and hard about whether it’s really important for me to check my email right now.
Note: I’m only tracking the occasions where I’m checking for new messages. If I’m searching for a particular email, updating Gmail filters, etc. it will not be tracked.
I’m currently working on a way to do such things without being able to see whether or not I have any new emails.
What does email domination look like? Good question, and I admit that I currently am not entirely sure. My main goal is for email checking to be a fully purposeful action, no longer something I do out of boredom or when avoiding real work. This likely means that I will also check email less frequently, as I’m expecting the tracking data to make it very clear that I don’t need to worry about missing important messages all that much.
Will I be able to go a full day without checking email? I can see that. Perhaps a week without checking email? Not likely– that doesn’t seem practical and I shudder at the thought of having to wade through a full week’s worth of emails in a single sitting.
In any case, I’ll be posting my results and observations throughout the next month so we can discover what email domination looks like together.