email inbox

Is Your Email A Tool Or A Box?

Ding.
That’s the sound of life not happening.
That’s the sound of relationships being ignored.
That’s the sound of work not getting done
and dreams not being pursued.

email inbox

It’s the sound of your email telling you it needs to be checked.

This post is a quick how-to change the way you use email so you can:

1. Use the tool for what it was made for
2. Communicate to your family that they are most important
3. Take back hours of your life per day

I’ve found email to be the biggest time drain in my life, especially when it’s attached to every iDevice I own. For several years it was Pavlovian. It would ‘ding’ and like a small town sheriff at high noon, I’d draw my phone. This would happen countless times a day. It would happen when I was going to sleep, waking up, in the bathroom, at dinner, taking my kids to the park, talking to my wife. It became like a mistress. I was powerless. I had to check it.

Personally, I find it a very passive form of communication. There are some quick response type things that make it useful, but the “long, read every thought I’ve ever had in life”, the “ALL CAPS DO I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION???”, the “I’m just going to say something dreadful, because I can’t see the look on your face”, or the offended response to my email because you read an email from your frustrated and upset emotional center, not my joyful one.

Email ran my life.
I hated to open my computer.
My email was not a tool, it was box.

Then things changed. I took email off of my iEverything. I decided when and where I would check it.
I decided how often I would respond and how much time I would allow email to be a part of my day.
Email changed from being a box I was in to a tool I used when I needed it.

1. Use the tool for what it was made for

Email is a critical tool for many people and professionals. It’s absolutely invaluable for sending and receiving information. The fact that you can attach movies, music, documents, pictures is man on the moon cool. That’s what it’s for: information without emotional content. Email is not a conversation and emoticons do not make it one. Email is not a means to talk about feelings. There’s no way for a person to read your intent or tone. When we choose to use email in lieu of a face to face conversation or phone call, it’s a very poor choice.

2. Communicate to your family that they are most important

I remember the look on my wife and kids’ faces when they wanted my attention or were talking to me and right in the middle my phone would ‘ding’. I would check it in front of them. It was Pavlovian. I couldn’t not do it. It was like a vampire willing me to bear my neck. Regardless, when we check our email on our handhelds in front of our loved ones, it communicates something: You Are Less Important Than My Phone! I was not at peace with that. So I did something to tell them they are most important. And man, has my life and time with them gotten better.

3. Take back hours of your life per day

Really, how much time do you think you spend on email? It might not be hours, but if that time runs your life, it might be time for a change. Change the way YOU communicate. Change the way other people expect to hear from you. When you get time back, you get life back. A thousand years might be like a day to the Lord, but a day is a day in any other economy.

No one deserves your second best.
Retooling your use of email can help you be your best around the clock.
Get out of the box.

  • sherylobryan

    Well said.  I have 5 email accounts.  (WHAT?!?!)  They mostly serve different purposes, but still . . . Anyway, I purposely have not linked 4 of them to my phone.  The 5th?  That’s where my brother finds me most often–even if I forget to check it regularly.