I had a sort of epiphany a few weeks ago when I was sitting in the sun looking at my phone one afternoon; How much nicer would my life be if I didn’t spend half of it deleting the emails of no consequence that appear on my phone every 15 minutes?
So, just like that, I stopped. I made my phone app stop checking for emails, went inside and closed the browser tab that’s been open continuously on my email account’s home page since about 2012, and started living email free.
Of course, that’s not entirely true. For the last three weeks, I’ve only opened my email when someone’s specifically told me to.
“I sent you an email — did you get it?” means it’s time to open my email, squinting so I don’t see anything other than the one I’m looking for, open it, sigh, respond to it, then tell the person via the other, better communications medium that I did get it, and I’ve, perhaps, done what was asked. Which is usually printing something for someone who hasn’t got a printer, or an even more mundane task.
Email’s been relegated to such an extent by real-time communications that it now exists as a sort of virtual post-it note. You’re never sure if someone’s got it, or if it’s blown off on to the floor — last-generation’s equivalent of being dumped in the spam folder — and been ignored.
The problem with most email we get is that isn’t simply spam, just really boring and worthless. I’m on mailing lists for the most mundane junk, generated by people I perhaps had business with a decade ago and who have ported, exported and imported my email address to their databases ever since.
My “main” email address — a BT account I’ve tried to protect from spam by only using for things deemed “work” in the past — is now overwhelmed, breached by an unstoppable blitzkrieg of emails written in 1990s blokey-blokey language from people with something to sell and men for whom “mate” is still the default greeting.
The problem is, one day Sophie Jenkins from Absolute Misery PR might have something of interest or use to me, so I can’t spam-filter her. And there was that time in 2005 when I went to lunch with Tom Harris because I thought he might give me a pair of the £200 headphones he was selling, so it feels pretty bad to auto-delete his messages about high-end audio equipment now.
So still they come in, but to an abandoned and unmonitored account, one that I might ironically open should someone from 2005 suddenly seem useful to me again in some way.
So yes, I’ve probably missed a few emails from my mum remarking about the sunset, perhaps the odd offer of paid freelance work from people who haven’t spoken to people I’ve worked for previously, and I’m really falling behind in news of developments in Bluetooth speaker accessory news that’s distributed 100s of times a day by PR people called Kate and Tom, but still.
I’ve got minutes of each day back, time I can spend doing things like... refreshing Twitter. So much more productive.
I’m a freelance writer who works from home, so can get away with this. You may have a job which involves being emailed Word files and Excel docs for your appraisal and perhaps may even be trusted with their modification, so it might be hard to completely cleanse your life of email. All I’m saying is, it’s nice to have two fewer tabs open and to have opted out of masses of pointless notifications each day.
You could, perhaps, check you email a bit less and still do the same job but with less distraction. That’s the moral.
This post originally appeared on Gizmodo UK, which is gobbling up the news in a different timezone.