4 Rewards For Forgetting About Email

9 Mar

I’ve never been a daring guy, and my long-standing terror of amusement park rides is merely Exhibit A. But this week I did something uncommonly bold, not only for me but for even the most fearless among us: I went 36 hours without so much as peeking even once at my work or personal email accounts.  

I literally cannot remember the last time that happened. Even on vacation, I’ve always preferred to check work email regularly, rather than come back into the office to face 500 unopened messages. And I always check personal email at least once a day, if not 45 times. 

Yesterday, I had a day off from work and promised myself I’d make it till noon without firing up the Blackberry. After clearing that hurdle, I extended the goal to dinner time. Finally, just as I was congratulating myself on a no-work-email day around 10 p.m., I stood up to check my personal email. Surely, some unbelievably fantastic news that I totally needed to know about — an advance order for 300,000 copies of my book, for instance — had arrived during the day. But then I thought, “Wait a second, man. If you can just make it another hour till bedtime you won’t have checked any email all day — and that would make a heck of a blog post!”

Then came another realization: Not checking email had freed up time to do other things:

1) Find some hidden cash – for years, I’ve needed to sort through about 15 or 20 boxes of football and baseball cards from the 1980s. Yesterday, I went through half of them. In the process, I discovered a Joe Montana rookie card that’s in reasonably good condition. An exhaustive, 30-second Google search revealed it might be worth between $50 and $24,000. Either way, it’s more money than I made my first year as newspaper journalist.
2) Read a (really old) magazine — I went page by page through the January 2, 1978 issue of TIME magazine, which was published right after my 5th birthday. It was fascinating — especially the cigarette ads that dominated the inside and back covers and most of the space in between. There was also an ad about a guy giving his congressman hell because the U.S. still hadn’t figured out a workable energy policy. I wonder how he feels now.
3) Dry dishes by hand — instead of slamming as many dirty pots, spoons and dishes as possible into the dishwasher and running off to confirm more useless info had  streamed into my email accounts, I hand-dried a bunch of things after my mom washed them. We had a good conversation, too, as we worked.
4) Think for five uninterrupted minutes —  I’m guest teaching a college journalism class next week and have been struggling to figure out a lesson plan. With my mind not reeling from the usual email siege, I was able to string together six or seven consecutive thoughts, the outcome of which was a solid gameplan that should keep the students awake for at least five minutes.

When I finally checked my personal account today, an email announcing a purchase of 300,000 books had not arrived. But about 50 spam messages had. I’m considering another email vacation tomorrow.



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5 Responses to “4 Rewards For Forgetting About Email”

  1. Christopher Toller March 10, 2012 at 1:05 am #

    This inspired me to re-read an old SPORT magazine (with Mickey Mantle on the cover) that an uncle gave me a long time ago. You’re right about email. As much as I pay attention to new messages, there’s only a few “meaningful” ones per week. Thank you for the reminder!

    • admin March 10, 2012 at 1:11 am #

      Glad you enjoyed it, Christopher. Sounds like a great issue of SPORT — would love to see the ads in that one! What year was it?

  2. Portia March 11, 2012 at 7:52 pm #

    My husband swears I’d go into withdrawl if I had to stop checking my email. I know for me it’s more of a habit than anything. That said, when I think of all the time I spend reading through (mostly) pointless email, it’s mind boggling all of the other things I could have done. I admit that I do check email on vacation but I’ve gotten better about setting expectations that people will hear back from me. Still, I wish I could just unplug. Thanks for a humorous reminder about what a time-suck email can really be.

    • admin March 14, 2012 at 12:22 am #

      Thanks, Portia. I have yet to meet anyone who’s really gotten a handle on how to deal effectively with email!

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