The Problem of Email

Matt Richtel of the New York Times points out a web site that challenges you to do nothing for two minutes. The point is to force you not to use your mouse or keyboard for two minutes.

I am always looking for ways to make my life both more productive and less stressful at the same time, and since I spend most of my working day at the computer, much of that effort has to do with how I use the computer (and iPad and phone, these days). But the issue isn’t whether or not you use the keyboard and mouse; the issue is what you use them for. I think there’s nothing wrong with using your mouse to scroll through an article you are reading — that’s how you learn things, and I find reading relaxing, even at a computer. The challenge is suppressing all the other ways your computer can bother you, or all the impulses to do something else, of which checking your email is probably number one.

I’ve tried a lot of tricks over the years. The problem is finding something effective that you can actually stick to. My current number one trick, which has worked well for several weeks now, is that I only check email between 10 and 6, Monday through Saturday, and when I’m not actively checking and responding to email, I close the window. It doesn’t work perfectly — I still check too often during the day — but it works pretty well. Basically, if it’s before 10 or after 6, I just pretend the email doesn’t exist.


2 thoughts on “The Problem of Email”

  1. My problem with computers is that you want to just read an article and wish you could just press “reading” key so as not to have the computer go off due to screen save. When this happens the power green light dims to yellow and anyone trying to contact thinks your not on the computer and you miss the contact. Any comments. Thank you and take care.

    Regards, Margaret Beresford Mtl

  2. James, this blog is a great idea! Given your interesting post on email (I also vaguely recall you writing that you’d never want to check email on your phone but I guess times change?) I would love you to give us a “Media Diet” blog post, like they do it over at The Atlantic Wire (or at least used to).

    Keep up the great work and good luck with the new job!

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