Coping with email overload

I like email. But:

Email. There is too much of it.

Every minute something like 200 million emails are sent. Day and night, billions of emails—big and small—ping from computer to computer. The average worker spends nearly one third of his time on email each week, sending and receiving 120+ per day. Business email is expected to grow from 108 billion emails sent and received per day in 2014 to 139 billion in 2018.

Like many people, I knew I had email overload. I knew that I was increasingly a slave to my inbox. I just didn’t have the clarity to really understand how bad it had become.

For my recent honeymoon, I decided I would take the longest break from email that I had ever taken: roughly two weeks (the previous record was probably not much more than 48 hours). As in, total email abstinence. I committed to myself and now-wife that I would take a complete break from all things email. I didn’t open it, I didn’t check it, I actually disconnected my accounts from my phone and my laptop.

In their place, I left a 2,000 word autoresponder where I laid out my reasoning: In the last decade I’ve received something like 150,000 emails. I’ve had anxiety attacks, I’ve interrupted meetings, parties, and major life events for the sake of supposedly urgent email intrusions.

This Is What Email Overload Looks Like – Ryan Holiday, Thought Catalog (20 March 2015)

Read the full piece for what happened in response to that 2,000-word autoresponder and what life lessons the fella learned.

New York Times on the need to take a break

I slept in this morning. It’s my first Monday back working and I slept in. Woke at 8am, it’s now slipping a wee bit past 9am and if you can really call nattering to you work, then this is the first work I’ve done. I am hours behind and I feel great.

I’m going to have to think about this. But as if to aid me thinking about it, I just read this:

Every day we’re assaulted with facts, pseudofacts, news feeds and jibber-jabber, coming from all directions. According to a 2011 study, on a typical day, we take in the equivalent of about 174 newspapers’ worth of information, five times as much as we did in 1986. As the world’s 21,274 television stations produce some 85,000 hours of original programming every day (by 2003 figures), we watch an average of five hours of television per day. For every hour of YouTube video you watch, there are 5,999 hours of new video just posted!

Hit the Reset Button in Your Brain – Daniel J Levitn, New York Times (9 August 2014)

I know what you’re thinking: who’s the slacker who didn’t make it 6,000 hours?

But Levitin’s point is that we need to step away from all this once in a while. And apparently, for a great number of people in the US, that once in a while is right now:

This month, many Americans will take time off from work to go on vacation, catch up on household projects and simply be with family and friends. And many of us will feel guilty for doing so. We will worry about all of the emails piling up at work, and in many cases continue to compulsively check email during our precious time off.

But beware the false break. Make sure you have a real one. The summer vacation is more than a quaint tradition. Along with family time, mealtime and weekends, it is an important way that we can make the most of our beautiful brains.

Is your brain beautiful? Or is this like football, which I think is called the beautiful game for absolutely no reason whatsoever?

Levitin’s full piece is an opinion article in the New York Times but it’s opinion backed up by some academic research that he and his colleagues have done. Read the lot for a bit more waffle but also a great deal more concrete bits about handling how our attention is so assaulted.