I used to love bringing my computer everywhere!
But now, the modern day office-It goes with us everywhere. Even on vacation. Even when we’re with our families. It has invaded every aspect of our lives, even when we’re on the toilet, we’re responding to texts and answering emails.
I was answering my 40th email of the day the other day, and I looked back over my sent folder- usually a source of pride for me- (Look how many emails I’ve answered today!) when suddenly I felt a chill.
This is what my life had become. Answering emails.
Then I thought, “Fuck Email.”
I started reading a book called The Tyranny of Email, because I was thinking of writing a book about how to do email right-and get out from under the magnetic tide of email, drawing us in, over and over again, until we DROWN.
When I was reading the The Tyranny of Email, there was a section dealing with the history of communication-and he wrote about the Alpeno Echo, a newspaper in Madison, Wisconsin. This newspaper shut down its telegram service, saying,
“We are Tired of being the world’s echo chamber- rather than a record of our own community.”
Sometimes when I look at the national news, and how people just repeat what is going on there, I think, I am tired of being the world’s echo chamber. What about what’s happening in our local communities?
And more than that, why has email replaced the phone, or face to face meetings?
According to Chris Hedges, we are in an electronic trance in a world lost in screens.
John Dos Passos writes,
“Our lives are in the shadow of an ever more rapid present- continuously calling into question-What is the defining context of our lives? The swell of history we ride on or the thoughts of travelers in the moment?”
“When history is walking all over our faces is no time for pretty sentiments” -John Dos Passos -USA books
According to the book, The Tyranny of Email, by John Freeman,
Freeman writes, “The internet is now about selling and pitching-
It has eroded our sense of time, our sense of context, allowing government and media to create and manipulate a constant state of crisis, because a culture with no sense of its past is blind to the errors of history.”
I have felt that sense of time eroding.
How many times have you looked up from your computer to realize the whole day is gone?
How many more days are you willing to spend like that, wondering where the day went?
How much more time are you going to put in front of this metal box, just… for what?
To get back to that person and prove you can keep on top of all of your emails?
What about what makes life meaningful? What if you haven’t been dancing/singing/berry picking in years? And you used to love those activities. But now instead you’re huddled around a screen all day every day.
This doesn’t just happen to youngsters. My grandmother spends all day in front of her laptop, watching health related Youtube videos. It got so bad that I hid her computer from her once for a whole day. (Shh! Don’t tell her!) I went to a restaurant with my dad and some relatives. My dad took a picture of us, posted it immediately to facebook, and then 5 minutes later, tapped my shoulder and said happily, “It already got 5 likes!”
This isn’t just an isolated incident. I took my parents to a Japanese garden a couple years ago and the whole time they were texting on their phones with my brothers (who we were going to see later). It made me sad. I wanted to say, “Look, just BE WITH ME HERE. This is the most beautiful place I know. Can’t we just be here together and have a moment?”
John Freeman goes on, “It has put us under great mental and physical strain, altering our brain chemistry and daily needs. It isolates us from the people we live with. We spend more time with our computers than with our spouses.”
His most chilling question for me though, was,
There are ways to get out of this. We’re going to talk about some right now.
Freeman says, When in doubt:
1. Don’t send. Call, Postcard, Letter. Invite for dinner.
Ask yourself, is this message essential? Does it need to arrive, instantly? Why am I sending it? Don’t send an email just saying “thanks.”
2. Don’t check it first thing in the morning or late at night. It creates a grumpy workaholic cycle.
3. Check it twice a day.
4. Schedule media free time every day.
5. Set up your desk to do something besides email.
6. Engage all five senses-not just your eyeballs
7. Do not debate complex or sensitive matters by email.
8. Type “No Response Needed” at the end.
9. Messages should be short. Long email to write? Print it and send as a letter.
10. Military Style Emails: I was having lunch with my friend Caitlin Wilde the other day, and she said that the military has a way of dealing with email that you might want to try. Here’s how it works. Put this in the subject line of every email you have to send-and ask your colleagues and direct reports to do the same.
This way you can triage your emails quickly-and know what’s important and what is not.
Do you have other ideas for how to deal with the GLUT of email that you receive? Please write a comment.