Minding the Borderlands

Mark Koester (@markwkoester) on the art of travel and technology

Sad Lost Digital Letters

I pledge to spend less time on email (both reading and writing) and more time on writing shareable, linkable posts.

My reasoning can be boiled down to two essential ideas:

  1. Email Time: We’re losing our time to email.

  2. Dead Letters: Email is not where you should put your best words since quite frankly email is where words go to die.

Let’s look at these two points in a bit more detail.

My Lost Email Time

A lot of human time goes into email. According to various sources, the average American worker spends 28% of their work time or 13 hours per week on email.

Personally, according to my own time tracking, I spent 37 hours on my computer on email in January and 45 hours in December. That means out of the 720 hours available in total in a month, over 5.5% of it is going into COMPUTER email. I’d guess I spend another 15-20 minutes per day on my phone reading and responding email. And, if you remove 8 hours of sleep, then I’m spending over 8% of my time on email.

That seems excessive to me.

I’m an existentialist. I don’t want to spend so much time on email. Moreover as a compassionate phenomenologist (a la Levinas), I don’t want to kill the time of the other.

Email Overload of Others and Their Time

Like most knowledge workers today, email is unavoidable. I use it as my primary communication tool. Instant message apps like Skype, WeChat or Slack, while great in some ways, don’t really solve the problem and only add to the overall time drain for communication tools.

We get a lot of email. If we are spending a lot of time on email as my numbers above indicate, it’s largely due to the raw number of emails we get each day. We send emails frivolously.

In spite of my ability to reach a state of Email Zen through Inbox Zero awhile back, I still have not been able to beat off the time drain spent emailing.

So, in order to avoid my wasted emailing and email reading of others, I will try to email shorter and email less.

Beyond the sheer goal of better, more vital time, email is not really where I should be wasting my literary attempts.

Sad Lost Digital Letters

Romantically I like to assume people read and re-read my emails like they would a physical letter sent in a bygone age.

In fact, us older folks, who have lived across the digital communication shift, might not quite understand how quickly emails get lost, buried under the triage of more incoming mail.

Quite simply: Email is where words go to die.

Rarely do people re-read and save emails. So, if your words are important or well-thought out or expect more of the reader, then don’t send it in an email.

Email should largely focus on specific ASKs or updates of information. Email should not attempt to express complicated or lengthy thoughts.

Email serves best as a reminder or question needing a short answer.

Less Email, More Shareable Posts

Email is not where you should put your highest energies or thoughts.

The problem with email goes beyond lost or wasted time. The problem is that people are busy and can’t possibly take the time or context to read carefully what comes in via email.

Email is not where I want my time or best words to be lost into.

So instead of writing so many email, I pledge to write more blog posts and then simply share links to my fuller thoughts, explanations or updates.

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