Addicted… to E-mail

Apparently on Monday Google Mail had a server power problem resulting in the temporary cessation of its service for a whopping two hours. Did you notice? I didn’t, but that would have only been because I was otherwise occupied at the time.
Apparently, many did.

If you follow the above link, you will be introduced to a philosophy of work and life management known to insiders as GTD. It is based on David Allen’s very helpful book Getting Things Done. I commend it. But more on that later (or better, more now here in James Fallows’ summary of the system).

I noticed a month or so ago that I was addicted to email. I’ve always been a little bit ADD. (Can one be a LITTLE bit ADD?) I was on a week of study leave and was hanging out at a nearby retreat center where I had no internet access. All I could do was read and reflect with no distraction from the outside world.

But here is what I noticed: that I was constantly stopping what I was doing to look at the computer screen where a little red dot would appear every time a new email came in. Intellectually I KNEW that it would be impossible for any email to appear. But I was stopping nonetheless and looking – habitually. I wanted a dot to appear. I wanted the distraction!

But the distraction never came. Boy, did I accomplish a lot during those times.

I happen to think that email is a wonderful thing. So is pizza. But I can indulge either way too much.

Like any addict, kicking the habit is painful. There are times – particularly when I am engaged in concentrated study – that I simply turn email off, and let the productivity begin.

I share this because I suspect I am not alone. If it isn’t email, it’s Facebook, or blogs, or puzzles, or novels. Good things can often steal from us the best things.

I’ve had relapses. But I’m learning.

For those of you for whom email really is a productivity killer, check out this post on the psychology of the ‘ding’. A piece to whet your appetite:

Even the beeps notifying the arrival of email are said to be causing a 0.5 per cent drop in gross domestic product in the United States, costing the economy $70bn a year.


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One thought on “Addicted… to E-mail

  1. Anonymous

    “…email, it’s Facebook, or blogs, or puzzles, or novels.”Pleading GUILTY, your honor. However, I/we don’t feel any obligation to confess to which – maybe even others – I/we are guilty. It does help, though, to not have the “ding” alert. (Well, maybe it helps a little….)

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