She vs. Her: Should You Check Email Over the Holidays?
Take Your Holiday Offline This Year
Mom, you should turn off email the entire two weeks,” said Thirteen-year-old.
“Yeah, “right!” “Nine-year-old rolled his eyes. They hee-hawed.
And so I did what I've learned to do when my household of men bets against me: I took the dare.
Last December, I had a serious problem with le email. I couldn’t stop. I was waking up at 2 a.m. to check it. And I was miserable because I could never keep up.
As I wrote last year,
“I had completely lost my perspective on the volume that inner nagging voice had achieved -- imagine AOL's golden-toned audio message, "You've Got Mail!", only this time screeched by Jack Black after a 72-hour-bender with Tenacious D.”
So I banned Twitter, didn’t blog. I killed everything that came in while I was away, with an automatic response that basically said: If you love me, you’ll write back in January when I am rested. Please. Help. Me.
And…you did! The sky did not fall, my little chickadees. Some friends even congratulated me. BlogHer chugged along beautifully, thanks to the team’s willingness to help cut the cord that was turning me into a borg. I baked, I sewed, I cleaned, I worked out, I read in bed. More than anything, I ... breathed.
The experience has changed me for the better. I’m no longer feeding the email beast –- I am honestly enthusiastic again about using it with the best that I and BlogHer have to offer. Ideas. Opportunities. Connections. Insight. Community. Fun.
Guilt is still a problem when I see unanswered e-missives stack up. But I do not feel compelled to act on every email, every request for my time. I am more conscious about how I invest the little time I have. I stop once a day and just … breathe.
Make no mistake: I am a worse correspondent. But when I’m engaged, I’m much more present. Smarter. Sharper. More myself.
I’ve also rejected multitasking. Why would you want to speak with me when I’m thumbing a device? If I get time with you face-to-face or phone-to-phone, I'm focused on you, and what you are saying.
Say it with me in the voice of Edna from The Incredibles: “No keyboards.”
This year, love yourself with two glorious, email-free weeks. You’ll love the typey-typey even more when you return.
Email: Can’t Live With It; Can’t Kill It!
At least I can’t.
I understand the impulse to swear off email altogether when trying to “unplug” and take a vacation. After all, once you get sucked in to email, it’s hard to escape.
But. Ignoring email doesn’t stop me from thinking about work…and what might be waiting for me when I return. The thought of taking the scorched-earth approach to email while on vacation fills me with more anxiety than actually checking email!
I do have my own way of managing the tyranny of email, but it doesn’t involve either letting all the email pile up untouched OR mass-deleting it without even looking.
In the former scenario, you return to thousands of email and all your hard-fought relaxation is out the window the moment you hit your Inbox. In the latter scenario, you don’t know what you don’t know. I shudder at the thought!
Here, however, is my two-step process, that I share with you free of charge:
Step #1: Regular Email Triage
First, I set up filters and folders for newsletters and other mass emails I get. Everything that hits my Inbox is something, theoretically, I should look at. And I do. Every single one. I delete, file, or quickly respond in 5 seconds. If it’s going to take more than that, and deserves a response, I leave it in my Inbox.
Step #2: Email Bankruptcy
But let’s face it: Things do linger. If you’re a filer, not a piler, an overfull Inbox feels oppressive. So a couple of years ago, I gave myself this gift, and I recommend it to anyone:
If, and only if, you already triage religiously, then you may regularly declare email-bankruptcy. That’s right. I declare email bankruptcy and move everything in my Inbox into a dated folder. I don’t delete it.
Sometimes I even go back to those email and look through and respond to some, but they are out of my Inbox. Perhaps they’ve been made obsolete. Or they’re important but not urgent. Interesting but not mission critical. Whatever the reason they were hanging around, after I declare Email Bankruptcy, they are not oppressing me. Anything really important will float back.
That’s my strategy. So, yes, I still triage my email on vacation. And I’m totally OK with that.
Editor's note: Got a brilliant idea for a She vs. Her topic? Email Julie with your suggestion.