Guilty. Guilty as charged.
This morning Gavin Richardson posted a link to “How Work Email Has Taken Over Our Personal Lives”, which then led me to Clive Thompson’s article “Are You Checking Work Email in Bed? At the Dinner Table? On Vacation?” Both are worth reading.
Of course I’m guilty of this, and from time to time, have tried to find ways to minimize how much time is consumed by email both during the work day and when I’m home. I still try and follow the Inbox Zero approach to email, which I find generally very satisfying, but sometimes can cause me to be a bit neurotic with email: “MUST. GET. INBOX. TO. ZERO. NOW!”
I have downloaded and tried the app Freedom, which cuts your computer’s wifi access out for a set amount of time. I just found that more frustrating than anything, because I would inevitably just restart my computer to stop the program to get on the internet.
I have also set my iPhone to stop automatically downloading email, so it only checks when I open my Mail app on the phone. And that is somewhat helpful, but sometimes it just means that I’m constantly opening the Mail app on my phone.
I get the fact that email has taken over so much of our time and has caused work to intrude, even more, into our time off, vacations, family time, weekends, etc. And while I used to be super excited to get email back in the day, now email has become more of a burden than anything. Merlinn Mann, who created the Inbox Zero method, talks about your email Inbox simply becoming your To-do list that everyone else gets to create for you. So I have my own list of To-dos that I think are important, but I’m constantly balancing that with my Inbox, which everyone else gets to add To-dos to.
Now, add to all of this the often-understood maxim that “Ministry is a 24-hr job.” I know that’s not healthy. I know that’s not sustainable. I know that’s not how we should think about our calling, but it’s hard to shake that little voice in the back of your head saying, “Well…in some ways, I should be available for folks whenever they need me…”
So, my question is – how do we handle email (granted, there is much more to this whole idea of ministry being a 24-hr job than just email, but let’s start there), how do we handle email, so that it isn’t something that is always staring us in the face?
I know that I’ve heard some folks say that they take their work email off of their phones. And I get how that could be helpful. But then when I want to send a work-related email from my phone, I have to go through the bother of signing into my email via an iOS web browser, and that’s just a pain. Or should I just keep my work email account Turned Off in the iPhone settings, and then turn it on if I need to access something or check something?
And add to all of this the fact that ministry isn’t the type of job where you’re just sitting at your desk all day. So, thinking about only checking work-related email on my work computer, which is a desktop and stays in my office, isn’t really going to work when I spend many of my “working hours” during the week around town, meeting up with people, running work-related errands, etc. And it’s in situations like that where having my work email on my phone and with me is super helpful.
I don’t know that there is one right answer, as I’m guessing that it depends a lot on the individual, but I’m wondering if anyone has found something that works for them. What have you done to alleviate, to any degree, the way in which email has become something that we do check at home in bed, at the dinner table, and on vacation?