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on the pains of email

Email is an integral part of my life. I would venture to say integral to most people’s lives. I use email to follow some mailing lists, nurture relationships, sales, some planning, marketing, and more.

I have a love and hate relationship with my email. It is like a drug. I used to constantly check my email all the time, every few minutes. Other time, I’ve watched the negative effect it has had on me. I used to read it in the morning as soon as I wake up. I would crave checking my email when I wake up. In fact, I still have that feeling when I wake up. Whenever I had a few seconds alone, waiting for the elevator, waiting in line, etc, I would immediately go check my email. I’ve been slowly removing myself from email, but it is a hard battle. It is easy to get sucked back into it. With other addictive things, you can stop using it cold turkey like drinking alcohol, but it is almost impossible to not use email in today’s world. So instead, I try to avoid using my email as much as possible.

my email rules

As I mentioned earlier, I used to literally check my email as soon as I woke up. Now I wait at least a couple of hours. I do my exercise, meditate, write a little, and sometimes read a book before I check my email. I typically leave my phone on airplane mode the night before. I don’t allow myself to check email or the internet after 10 pm. I have a daily calendar that reminds me at 10 pm to get off the computer.
I practice zero inbox, where I try to delete or respond to all my emails a soon as possible, with the goal of getting my inbox to have zero emails. This way I don’t have anxiety about how to respond to certain email. And I easily know if I’m failing if I have more than several emails in my inbox. Since I can’t fully escape my emails, there are some tools I want to help make it more manageable.

on writing emails

I have some anxiety writing emails. People are so busy, that I sometimes don’t get a response, its not because people ignore me, but they forget. So I keep followup in my head, which I don’t want to. I want the follow up emails to be sent after several days inside of my email system so that if they don’t follow up, the system automatically will send out the email. I want to be able to write or choose those followup emails when I write the initial email. I know of tools like boomerang and followup.cc, but they are not the same, they remind you and add to the problem of email anxiety.

was this email thread useful?

All these emails we write and receive use up time out of our lives. Time that could be spent on other things like enjoying life, studying, working, etc.

I want to be able to track for each thread I’m involved in, was it helpful to me or did it help them. If I can track that certain people or conversations I am in are not providing real value and instead draining me, then I want to stop those emails. Although this has been an idea I’ve had for a while. I’ve never built it because I don’t want to build an over engineered system to track this. Is there a simple way to build this or some existing system I could use to hack this together? I can’t use something like a spreadsheet, because I need to know which thread and person I am marking. I would prefer something that connects to gmail and is in the browser.

avoid all email?

Is it possible to completely skip email? I don’t think so, but I’ve toyed with the idea, I’ve done thought experiments to see what it would look like. What if someone acted as my intermediary and filtered my email for me. I know some people do this with personal assistants. I’ve tried a couple of different processes with this, but have never been happy with the quality. I would love to hear people’s thoughts on how they have done this in a way that works. I’ve also investigated artificial intelligence bots doing this for me. Some companies are trying variants of this, but all the ones I’ve tested seem to work terribly. It is not their fault, the technology is not there yet to build a bot that understands all the nuances of language. I’ve built a few deep learning chat bots and I know that they can sometimes write awesome responses, but its often just plain bad.

conclusions

I mindfully resist temptations of email checking. My system also helps to manage the load. I do fear I will fallback into my habits of constantly craving email all the time, it is an ongoing battle. I look forward to the day where we don’t need to be checking email all the time.