Let’s face it: email is a drag.
Everything that shiny links and unsolicited messages once had in the early days of the internet are long gone. Today, the content of your inbox is probably closely tied to that of your cell phone’s voicemail – unwanted and uncontrolled.
It doesn’t have to be that way. It is in your power to functionally abandon electronic mail. It’s surprisingly easy and it’s so good.
First of all, let’s all agree that writing and responding to emails is painful. Even the companies providing the service know it is unbearably tedious. Google has tried to make things less burdensome on the sender side with Gmail Smart response and Smart composition functions, and on the receiver side with Nudges, but these are just annoying dressings on the festering wound of bond.
No new feature can fix the underlying problem with the email itself – that it exists as a giant to-do list created by other people and hanging over your head forever. . Some might try to combat this by reaching the so-called zero inbox, but that’s just playing the game of your digital task masters.
It is not your obligation or responsibility to make yourself available in the way that is best for others.
Do not do it.
If you follow a few basic guidelines, it’s easy to unsubscribe.
You might not have the option of giving up email in your professional life (disappointment), but hopefully your personal life is yours. So let’s focus on that.
Your first step should be to recognize the few places where, unfortunately, you should keep your emails. Think about when you buy airline tickets or need to reset an online account password. Email here is the key.
But don’t let the fact that you have to from time to time to have an email address gets you down.
Remember that you don’t need to open your email except in the few specific situations where you want – say, for example, when you check in on that flight to Hawaii.
But what about all the other reasons for using email, like paying bills? Unless you pay your bills directly via email, you don’t really need an email account. Cell phone bills can be paid automatically, and your electricity and water bills are likely due on the same day each month. Set a calendar reminder on your phone and pay them online just like you would anyway.
This brings us to the slightly trickier question of other people. There are two approaches here: automatic response or electronic signature. If you just want to wash your hands, consider setting up an automatic response that looks like this: “This email address is no longer in use. Please contact us by other means. If the problem is urgent, send an SMS or call me. “
It does several things at the same time. First, it lets the person who emailed you know that you won’t see their message. Second, it pushes the person to other channels of communication that are not email. Do you frequently text each other, exchange phone calls, or Signal with the person? Well, they can just hit you that way.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, it acts as a de facto filter. If the sender has no other way to reach you than by email – they don’t know your mobile number, your Twitter ID, your mailing address, your landline, whatever – then maybe ‘he’s not that close to you in the first place. And hell, if it is really important, they will understand it.
However, if you can’t imagine stepping away from your inbox entirely, you can always reduce its power over you by checking it less frequently. Like, a lot less. Try once a week (at most). This is where the electronic signature comes in.
Create an email signature that lets the recipient of your reply (because you should never launch email chains) that the account is verified very rarely, and if the issue is urgent, they should text you or you. call. Once again do do not put your phone number in the signature of the email. What if they don’t have your phone number? Well, whatever. There is a little thing called the White Pages.
It is not your obligation or responsibility to make yourself available in the way that is best for others. If people need to contact you, they will – by email or not.
From phones to Facebook, to Twitter DMs, to Slack, we are already overloaded with communication channels. Cutting one won’t break your life. In fact, it might just improve it considerably.
UPDATE: January 30, 2020 10:44 am PST: It seems Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey also thinks email is a drag. Welcome to the party.
This story was originally posted on October 11, 2018 and updated on January 30, 2020.