Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Turning Off E-Mail: Surprisingly Easy

I have to go to SXSW one of these years. The podcasts from 2006 still influence me today, and I'm amazed by the best podcast from 2007 (to my knowledge so far).

It comes from Tim Ferriss - tango champion, kickboxing champion, and author of The Four Hour Workweek, a book I'm eagerly anticipating from Amazon any day now. One of the podcast's most counterintuitive pieces of advice is incredibly easy to implement: only check e-mail twice a day.

Tim suggests setting up an autoresponder with a message along the lines of "I have a new time management system where I only check e-mail twice a day; call me if you need to get in touch immediately." I'm on a ton of different mailing lists, too many to even count, so initiating this exact strategy would have been profoundly antisocial of me, since it would have created reams of spam for all sorts of people. But it was easy enough to just move the message into my signature, and that's what I've done.

To some extent, it hasn't really worked, but the big obstacle isn't people pressuring me to e-mail them right away. I live a pretty mellow life to begin with. The real obstacle is weaning myself off e-mail (and blogs). Thankfully, I stood firm against Twitter, and I don't have a TV, but I'm hooked on all the other forms of information crack, and enforcing my own new time management policy has easily been the hardest part of the whole thing.

Remember, kids, crack kills.

However, after initiating this a couple days ago, maybe even a week ago, I'm starting to feel the effects, and I have to say, it's totally worth it. It feels kind of like when I was 19, and I realized I was watching a lot of TV, so I made myself quit cold turkey. The world got bigger. Not just because I had more time; because I had more concentration. Time without concentration is like scraps of paper easily blown away by the wind. Time with concentration has weight and heft. It's just a feeling, but it's a good feeling.

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