Cutting back on e-mail checking

I’m something of a pioneer of on-the-go email checking. Maybe pioneer is too strong. Let’s say “early adopter”. I used to check my email using my WAP-enabled phone when I was on vacation. It was painful, but it worked. Eventually I graduated to a Treo 600 with Chattermail for always-on IMAP-push email notification (equivalent to Crackberry service, basically). This was before everyone and their cousin had a Crackberry.

On the Treo, when I get new mail, the little green light starts blinking rapidly instead of its normal once every two seconds or so. Over the last 2.5 years or so I’ve apparently developed a habit of glancing down at my belt holster, looking for that rapid flashing to see if I have mail.

Lately, people have been talking about the benefits of shutting down the auto-updates and instantaneous reminders. It seems like all the cool kids are doing it.

I’ve started trying it. The email on the phone is generally turned off. If I’ve been away for a while or I have time to kill (waiting in a long line or whatever), I’ll fire it up. At work I check email as a break after I’ve finished a major goal or a big block of little goals, and after lunch. I’m keeping it down to once or twice in the evenings at home. So far, it’s been mostly okay.

I find myself doing odd things. I look down at my phone, even though I know the email program is off. I bounce my mouse down to the dock in Mac OS X, looking for the little red circle with a number on the Mail icon to tell me I have mail. Occasionally I actually open the Mail app without that being my original intention. Hopefully after a week or two I’ll be able to break those habits.

How often do you check your email?

One thought on “Cutting back on e-mail checking

  1. misterbeans

    I need to cut back too. You know how they say mother’s can hear their baby’s cry from far away even when it’s a little whimper? Well, I can be anywhere in the house and hear my computer’s sound effect letting me know email has arrived. I’ve found the only way I can get anything done is if I close Mail. Otherwise I hear it go off and I instantly HAVE to know what just arrived. And even if it’s some piece of junk, it sends me off to play on the internet or email people or whatever.

    I plan to keep it closed except when I actually intend to check my mail, and any thoughts of needing to email someone can go in the next actions list instead of being done immediately. The email may take less than a couple of minutes but the resulting distraction can last for an hour.

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