EMAIL ANGST / touch it once!

October 17, 2018

As I mentioned, I ordered How to Break Up with Your Phone in an impulsive flurry the other day.  The title — and its promise — was just too good for me to ignore.

(I am going to be sad if it was just a marketing ploy and is not chock full of practical tips and a real plan, and I will let you all know so you don’t make the same mistake if that turns out to be the case!).

When I texted Josh that I had ordered this book (because trust me, no one wishes for this breakup more than my beloved husband), he texted back*:

You know what?  I HATE EMAIL ON MY PHONE.  For several reasons:

1) It’s distracting (obviously).  It’s very hard NOT to read something once it’s popped up and has some interest.

2) I feel compelled to check work email when I’m off even though really I do not need to (we have a coverage system for that).  Then I find out someone needs something and worry about it / end up doing work on my day off that wasn’t really necessary.

3) It’s incredibly annoying to respond on email, which means a lot of times they are read but then left to fester, which means I am looking at the same things MULTIPLE TIMES instead of once, creating a lot of brain clutter that didn’t need to exist in the first place because IF IT WAS THAT URGENT, it wouldn’t have been an email.

Touch It Once – maybe not always practical advice, but I certainly don’t need to open up a preschool bday party invite 3 separate times before responding, entering it into my calendar, and ordering a gift.

I think that Josh is right – I predict Catherine Price (the author of the book) will tell you to take email off of your phone.  And you know what?  That is an unbelievably smart idea, whether she suggests it or not.  I’m going to do it now even before I read the book.  As soon as I figure out how  . . . after all, I can always put them back.  But I’d like to see if getting rid of the option to check (other than opening a browser window to do it, which is much more annoying) will force me to corral email-reading back to where it belong: on the computer when I actually have time/energy to respond.  Wish me luck!

* Yes, I get the irony.  But the truth is he kind of HAS broken up with his phone.  Other than the occasional text reply sent to me often an hour or more after I’ve texted him.


  • Reply Holly March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Eh I get your point and agree that having NOTIFICATIONS on your phone to constantly drive your attention back to an app is problematic (and as such, I have turned them off!). However I think Josh’s advice to just take it all off your phone is overly simplistic given how things work now. And honestly it’s probably indicative of his good fortune in you being the one to coordinate (most) everything for him. No need to worry about the preschool bday invite if you aren’t dealing with it in the first place, you know? I know I’m being hard on Josh and you will come to his defense. 🙂 Just a point for consideration!

    But yes, I agree not really looking at emails until you are READY to deal with them is probably a best practice. And we are probably showing our age, but I do find most email-related things much easier to deal with on a desktop than a phone!

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

      That may be true re: the preschool invite and Josh, but I certainly don’t have to look at it 3 separate times 🙂

  • Reply Krista March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I like having email on my phone so that I can get emails about signing up for things ASAP. I”ll be damned if I get the worst school conference time because I only check my email at certain times 😂

    • Reply Beth C March 10, 2019 at 9:00 pm

      Haha I agree 100%! I have a parent-teacher conference today and I was the FIRST to sign up. Totally worth it.

  • Reply Elaine March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I can so relate to point 2 and am trying (but failing) to not check work emails when I”m not at work.I get anxious what if I miss xyz, or one of my bosses needs an answer about something with a patient I saw that has phoned through after hours- though of course as you say they could always call if it”s truly urgent- or a patient has emailed rather than called through the emergency line.

  • Reply TAS March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I’m one of those people that think the net impact of email wasn’t positive. That said, my strategy is to hide my work email on the third swipe screen. I may move it inside of a folder to make it harder to see. I’m also a huge believer in separating work and life emails into separate accounts. (Learned to do this when practicing law in my previous life.) I get plenty of dopamine hits from my personal account (Nordstrom points! Recipes! Invitations!) without any of the stress or pull of my work email. (I have no problem ignoring the personal one since it doesn’t create anxiety, whichever is what pulls me in.)

  • Reply Stacey March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I took work email off my phone a year and a half ago and I check it WAY less frequently now (via a browser). I definitely think that”s a good idea. I still check my personal email on my phone constantly but it rarely adds anything to my mental load in the way that (even totally unimportant) work email does.

  • Reply Cbs March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    So interested to see how this experiment goes. I think this is a work / commuting dynamic thing. My department is doing a big push about not sending things between 7pm and 7am which I can appreciate but I also find it helpful to reserve emails for lower energy times of day. When I’m teaching, I ignore all my student emails until my bus ride home where I can knock them out in one go. I also can nurse and email at the same time.

  • Reply Beth C March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    This is super interesting! Not sure how many people do this, but I have a work phone and a personal phone. I just like to keep them separate. When I get home I plug the work phone in downstairs in the kitchen and check it maybe once or twice. A few trusted people know that if they really need me they need to text my personal cell. I keep the work phone with me only if I know there is something critical that people are working on. If I know it’s a normal evening, it gets plugged in and mostly ignored. My personal phone on the other hand….it’s more tempting. I try to keep it in another room when we’re eating a meal or putting the kids to bed or going for a walk but I admittedly don’t really have a great system for this.

  • Reply Amanda March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Like Beth C., I have two separate phones — work and personal. Work has work email, but silent notifications only. No chimes. I only hear a noise if it is a call or a text. And I have the same after work habits. Intentionally I never set up my personal phone for email (or any social media feeds — fb, twitter, instagram). I’ll check those on a browser. Honestly, I’m online most of the day for work, and it’s a nice break to be "off line" for the rest of the time. It works for me. My phone is pretty much for calls, texts, podcasts (!!), and the non-social apps. It’s a super-simple system, and it works for me.

  • Reply Alyce March 10, 2019 at 7:07 pm

    I have never had my work email on my phone, and it’s been great. I have a very firm rule of not checking my work email outside of work (which is not nearly as strident as it sounds, as there’s no real expectation that I work in my off hours). I do keep my personal email on my phone, which has been essential because I regularly draft responses to personal emails on my train ride to/from work. But those emails are more prone to typos, so I re-read on a computer before sending it out. So I do wind up "touching" the email multiple times. But I don’t want to spend a big chunk of my time at home responding to email, as I really hate to spend my personal time in front of a computer after having spent 40 hours during the week at my desk typing away in front of a screen. Honestly, there are very few emails that I respond to in writing. I do take 15 minutes a couple times a week to process emails that don’t need a response but generate some sort of to do (buy a gift, add to calendar, etc)

  • Reply Alyce March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    Also, I just don’t have any fun apps on my phone. No games, no social media. I only keep "practical" apps on my phone – banking/financial (personal capital, credit/debit cards, ynab, venmo, paypal), transportation (lyft, google maps, train schedules), personal productivity (calendar, gmail, time tracker, notes), athletic apps (gym schedule, yoga app, food tracker, workout tracker), standard communication apps (phone, messages, whatsapp, facetime). My only entertainment apps are podcasts and music. I block safari using parental controls, so I’m not getting sucked into mindless websurfing. (Though I do download chrome when absolutely necessary, like when traveling, and without fail, I immediately get sucked into it again. Phones/apps/the internet are sooo addictive. I often leave chrome installed for a day or two too long before deleting it again.) I still pick up my phone a lot, but it’s not really all that engaging, and not for extended periods of time.

  • Reply Erica March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I waffle on having my work email on my phone. It’s a really rare instance where someone really needs to reach me after hours. But if they do, it’s usually "urgent" (like a professor needing my CV for an application they are putting inthat night, something to that effect). I don’t typically sit at my laptop at night so checking email that way isn’t intuitive, but is something I could do. But just this week my work email stopped working on my phone because of the new two-step authentication system that they set up and I can’t seem to figure out … and the world has not come to an end! SO based on that, and this post, I hid my email (and GMAIL!) apps on the last page of my phone so it’s not an automatic thing I do every time I pick my phone up.

  • Reply Racheal March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I actually love that I can get email (and calendar/meeting reminders) on my phone. It makes my job so much more flexible! I take calls while dropping the kids off at daycare/school. I also work with a lot of clients overseas, so checking my email early in the morning once to ensure nothing has gone wrong while I am asleep helps a lot.

    Obviously our jobs are different, so I can see where you would benefit from these. I would for sure benefit from removing Instagram from my phone…but I just don’t want to. Ha!

    However, I do see what you mean about "brain clutter" and I could probably set times in the day when I am "allowed" to check my email. Good food for thought!

  • Reply OrganisingQueen March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    I wrote this looooong email and sadly, lost it 🙁

    Anyway, read this mail by Elise Cripe – i think she’s a questioner (because I don’t see upholder tightening in her at all) leaning to upholder.

    I’m trying to be more conscious of not opening emails unless i can send a quick reply or wait til I can respond from a laptop.

    • Reply theSHUbox March 10, 2019 at 7:07 pm

      NOOOO! I hate that 🙂
      Her post is great – and she does seem like a Questioner to me too 🙂

      I still have the ability to access email on my phone if needed, but it’s harder now. I think that’s a good thing for me! I just hate all of the things that tempt me to look at my phone when I don’t need to be. I yearn for a less disjointed existence and this requires breaking the addiction!

  • Reply Lisa March 10, 2019 at 7:06 pm

    This is going to sound way too simple, but it has reduced my phone addiction by about 90%. The original intent was actually to get the phone away from my kids (6, 5, 2) who got into a bad habit of fighting over my phone (which I did not used to let them use…it is a slippery slope). I bought a $15 iphone wall mount on Amazon and the change was immediate. Without the phone sitting around on the counter, table, etc. I actually don’t even think about touching it. I think I’m going to get a second mount for upstairs. I sometimes go hours now without scrolling. It sounds dramatic but it’s been life changing. It also works for the kids – I just tell them the phone needs to be charged and away it goes (I installed the mount high enough on the wall so they can’t reach it, and near an outlet). Good luck!

  • Reply Joey March 10, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    I work in a profession where pretty much everyone gets email to their phones (im a family law lawyer). However, none of the lawyers in my current office do and it”s sctually amazing. When I”m working (which often includes early morning before my kids are up or the split shift post bedtime routine) I”m working and when I”m off, I”m off. Early on at the firm I expressed to my boss reservations about not synching email to my phone, she said to me, “why? Nothing is coming in after hours that can”t wait until business hours tomorrow. All you will do is stress yourself out/worry over it for extra hours until you can actually tackle the problem the next day.” It”s such a true statement and sounds similar in your line of work. Nothing that is coming to me by email can”t wait

    I encourage you to follow Josh”s advice and try it. Also, I handle all the kid logistics in my family and those emails can also wait til business hours without issue.

  • Reply gwinne March 10, 2019 at 7:01 pm

    It sounds like you know what you want and need to do.

    I’m in the minority of folks who (a) still have a landline and (b) only have pay-as-you-go cell service. Home phone (Ooma) is still my preferred contact for actual calls to folks like my mother. I can use the cell for text, mostly for the kid play date type situations, and meeting up with people (like, hey, where are you? I’m in the back of the room…); only in the past month (while we were moving) I went over my monthly minutes and needed to add more. Email happens probably 90% of the time on my computer, 10% (reading, not responding) on the iPad while I’m hostage in Tiny Boy’s bedroom (and I need to stop doing this!!!! for exactly the reasons you mention. I won’t respond that way). I’m not missing anything, I’m not ‘behind’ on email response as a general rule.

    I know I’m not typical in these habits, but I’m also not missing anything… also not on Facebook and stopped checking twitter.

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