June 4, 2015

Getting Away from the Guilt of Email

The last week or two, I have just felt overwhelmed. I’ve definitely had too much on my plate, and it’s forced me to really start getting productive. If you need something to get done, ask a busy person, right? While ordinarily that kind of hyperfocused productivity would be a good thing (and it’s definitely paying off at work), lately it’s also come with kind of a big heaping plate of guilt at the things I’m letting slide.

My personal email address, for example, has been piling up like crazy – to the point where I’m even ignoring emails from friends. Oops! Those are usually the emails I deem VIP, but I feel like I just haven’t had the time to deal with them.

(“Feel like” is definitely an important thing to add here, because I’m a big believer that you make time for things if they are important to you. And to be perfectly honest, there comes a point in the night where I leave my home office because I’m done with work, and I would rather cook and watch TV then spend time on personal emails. I’m sorry, friends!)

Of course, the problem is that the more I let my email pile up, the less inclined I am to worry about getting back to Inbox Zero. (What is that like? I can’t even remember lately.) It’s a vicious cycle for sure! I keep telling myself that I am going to get caught up on it “tomorrow”, but then I get busy with other stuff and all that email falls to the wayside.

Adam tells me that I am addicted to my email – and objectively, he’s right. I get antsy when I have to go too long without checking it (too long = more than an hour), and I get grumpy if I don’t have twenty minutes a few times a day to crank through whatever’s in there, actioning things and then archiving them out of my email. Is it so crazy to want a vacation from work so that I have the time/energy to catch up on my personal email inbox? (Yes, Laura, that is insane.) In my defense, I’ll note that I basically refuse to use text messaging (or Facebook messaging… ugh, that’s the worst!), so email is my primary means of communication… but that still doesn’t mean it should be taking over.

So instead of taking a work vacation in order to catch up on email, I’m taking the opposite approach and using a mini-vacation to get further away from it. Tonight I’m on a flight to Phoenix, with plans to (mostly) take the day off work tomorrow and head out to the wilderness around Flagstaff. Adam and I are headed out on a family camping trip with his son, and as a former Girl Scout, I’m pretty psyched to relive my camping days! Despite the fact that I’ve fully embraced hiking in Colorado, I haven’t yet tried camping there, and in fact, haven’t camped since I was about 12 years old.

This wasn’t the last time I went hiking… but it’s pretty close. It’s been a while!

We don’t have too many activities planned, but I think that’s half the fun – and also half the challenge for me, little Miss I-Plan-And-Schedule-Everything. We won’t have electricity to power my laptop or MiFi (though we have a solar panel that will hopefully keep our cell phones running in case of emergency), and honestly, right now I’m a little panicky that my email is going to pile up even more over the next few days. (Signs of an addict, right?) But as I noted on Tuesday, I love being in the mountains – it is most definitely my happy place. I think that this small break from technology may be just what I need to stop feeling guilty and getting stressed out about something as silly as an email inbox.

And instead embracing the beauty around me… this is my happy place!

We’ll be back to Phoenix on Sunday, and while I absolutely intend to ask Adam for twenty minutes of me-time to tame the beast that I’m sure will be lurking in my Gmail, I’m hoping that the two day break will make me feel just a little bit less anxious and time-sensitive about whatever comes in. And perhaps taking a break from the musts and shoulds of my personal email will make me regard it as less of a chore and more as something exciting to follow up on when I am home on Tuesday night? We shall see – but that’s what I’m hoping for.

Anyone else an email addict like me? How do you keep it from taking over?


6 thoughts on “Getting Away from the Guilt of Email”

  1. Ha! How timely – I am feeling the same way and though I’m not going camping, I am doing a digital detox this weekend, since we have the kids and I need to unplug. Have fun camping! And unplug, it’s rejuvenating!

  2. I’m a total email addict but, like you, have been putting it on the back burner lately. (Your email is one of them I have yet to respond to after a few weeks!) Even though it is somewhat overwhelming, I love getting to a zero inbox as well… Good for you for taking that break this weekend. Enjoy your email-free weekend – I’m sure once you get over the initial withdraw, it’ll feel so freeing!

  3. Lots of good things in this post. I totally agree with your comment about “making” time for something if it is truly important. I too am a firm believer in that. It is all about prioritization. That said, it is hard because you can’t always make something the top priority if it is always there. A balance for sure.

    Your thoughts on text messaging still confuse me to no end. I totally get not wanting to use it for work stuff, but it is such a great productivity tool for chatting with friends.

    I wonder if there is an opportunity to take time to categorize the types of personal emails you receive and do a cost / benefit analysis on them. Not even time to deal with them vs benefit you get but instead joy you get from working your personal email vs the stress of having it pile up. I get the sense that there is a cyclical nature to your stress/enjoyment of email, but I wonder if deliberately lowering the volume of it would make the joy of reading them higher more often than the stress of them piling up.

    1. I don’t see the benefit of using text to chat with friends vs another means of communication. To me, it is needlessly interruptive unless it’s something planned ahead (e.g., “hey, let’s text and catch up at 7pm)… but no one does that.

      I’m not sure I follow your categorization plan?

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