At least once a year, I go completely offline from email for about 5 days for a meditation retreat. Every time I do it, I’m amazed at what I discover in my inbox when I come back and the opportunities that emerge to get more discerning about what I’m allowing in and how I handle it.
One of the first things I usually notice is that most of the email I’m getting is far less important than I convince myself it is when I’m checking email every day, hour-by-hour.
There are a few here and there that need more timely attention and hold greater importance, but even those don’t need an instant reply. People know to reach me by phone or text if they need a timelier response than one or two business days.
Second, when I have 5 days’ worth of emails I’m processing in one sitting, it’s a whole lot easier to see improvement opportunities.
For example, day-to-day it’s fairly easy to just hit delete on something like a newsletter I usually don’t read anyway. But handling them in bulk helps me see how many I’m allowing in like that and it motivates me to take the extra time to unsubscribe from them or set up an email rule if it’s a spammer I can’t safely unsubscribe from.
And finally, taking an email vacation affirms that notifications distract me more than support me.
Long ago I turned off my badge icons and new email sounds. Recently I went one step further and changed the email on my iPhone from push to pull. So now I make a conscious choice when to go fetch new email, rather than having it instantly push into my inbox 24/7. That change has been liberating. I feel even more in control, I’m able to stay centered and present, and I feel better equipped to process it intelligently when I’m in the right mindset and space.
Originally published at medium.com