How To Care Less About Your Email | Kanebridge News
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How To Care Less About Your Email

Inbox taking over your life? Take a page from the email slackers and naysayers and try declaring email bankruptcy, setting filters—and just letting it go.

Tue, May 24, 2022 3:22pmGrey Clock 4 min

Reed Omary, a radiologist in Nashville, Tenn., logged into one of his work inboxes one day last winter, selected thousands of unread emails and, with the click of a mouse, removed them from his life.

“I just deleted the whole kit and caboodle,” he says with a shrug. “If they’re important, they’ll come back.”

So many of us spend our days ruled by email: constantly refreshing, wading through detritus, paralyzed by the pressure of crafting a reply to the one note that actually matters. The moment we reach inbox zero, and few of us ever do, the ding sounds again.

Maybe we need to take a page from the defectors. You know the ones—those co-workers who are good at their jobs, but don’t seem to care all that much about your note. If they bother to move messages into folders, it’s with the express purpose of forgetting them forever. They stick to Slack or Teams and ignore everything else.

Some set up highly specific out-of-office responses—I only check email at 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.; I’m with a client today—which they seem to actually mean. They’ll get back to you next week. Meanwhile, they…get work done?

“Checking email feels fast, it feels productive,” says Greg McKeown, a business author and speaker. “But the stuff that matters isn’t moving forward.”

His suggestion: Don’t even go there. Start your day by writing a list of priorities on a piece of paper. Block two half-hour slots on your calendar to really deal with your email—rather than scrolling through constantly—and ignore it the rest of the time, he says.

Of course, some jobs take place almost exclusively via inbox. Some folks might get in trouble with the boss if they let a note languish for half a day. Some are just addicted to seeing what’s new.

“You never know what you’re going to get,” Mr. McKeown says. “Pull the handle again. Could be amazing, could be terrible, could be nothing.”

For years, Stephanie Worrell took pride in responding to emails nearly instantaneously, even at 2 a.m. She bought a board to affix to her bathtub and positioned her laptop there, just watching her emails come through while she soaked.

“There’s a high to it,” says the 54-year-old, who lives in Boston. “Someone thinks I’m important.”

Her children were less impressed. They complained she was always typing out a note. She developed back pain from sitting so much.

She started setting a timer, limiting herself to two 15-minute checks a day, and found that not much happened if she only answered the five most important notes out of 100. She urged clients and colleagues to text her if they needed something fast.

These days, she has 46,000 emails languishing across three inboxes, and zero anxiety over it.

“I feel free,” she says.

People who take control of their inboxes are calmer, happier, more productive and better at hitting work goals, says Emma Russell, a senior lecturer at the University of Sussex who studies the impact of email. The key is making a plan—for example, pledging to log off after 6 p.m. and on weekends–and then publicly declaring it.

Talk to your boss to find out what’s acceptable and what’s not, coaches and researchers told me. Negotiate if you have to. Often just asking your manager to verbalize specific guidelines makes clear no one expects a reply within two minutes.

The liberation can go awry. When Johan Lundström, a scientist based in Stockholm, deleted all his email after a three-week vacation, he was elated. A year later, a colleague asked him why he hadn’t moved forward with an award for his research, which focuses on the human sense of smell. Turns out, he’d been up for a $10,000 grant. He’d just needed to respond to an email within a week.

Though irritated about the lost funding, he has no regrets.

“I was high for a week, looking at my almost clean inbox,” he says.

Now he reads his emails but rarely responds; when he does it’s with a couple-word answer. He’s implemented a 15-minute delay for incoming messages so he isn’t constantly inundated. The best part: The less email he puts into the world, the less the world sends back to him.

He still remembers once spending an eight-hour trans-Atlantic flight clearing out 200 messages. His inbox was flooded with replies the next day.

“It was just like a horrible circular work of hell,” he says.

Filters and folders can help ensure fewer useless emails clog your inbox, says Matt Plummer, chief executive of Zarvana, a coaching and corporate training firm. Move things like newsletters into a separate folder for less important emails, ones that require a scan, not a response. Set a weekly appointment to read those.

Then route emails from the top five people at your job—your big client, your boss—into a folder you check hourly. You can get even more granular, flagging emails that have your name in the body, or assigning ones where you’re just cc’ed a less important label. But no need to spend five hours on a Sunday creating some elaborate system, he says. Just sort as you go, and keep it simple.

“Don’t have 37 email folders,” he says.

Every few years, digital and agile consultant Luba Sakharuk will get inspired by a productivity guru and attempt to organize her inbox. The effort generally lasts a few hours.

“The second I clean up, I freaking lose something,” she says, by misplacing files in mystery folders, accidentally deleting documents.

She had pined to be like the zero-inbox crowd, tidy and under control. But recently she has been thinking: Eh, whatever.

“I’m getting stuff done. Clients are happy,” she says. “If this chaos is my way, then that’s my way.”

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: May 23, 2022.


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Capri Coffer socks away $600 a month to help fund her travels. The Atlanta health-insurance account executive and her husband couldn’t justify a family vacation to the Dominican Republic this summer, though, given what she calls “astronomical” plane ticket prices of $800 each.

The price was too high for younger family members, even with Coffer defraying some of the costs.

Instead, the family of six will pile into a rented minivan come August and drive to Hilton Head Island, S.C., where Coffer booked a beach house for $650 a night. Her budget excluding food for the two-night trip is about $1,600, compared with the $6,000 price she was quoted for a three-night trip to Punta Cana.

“That way, everyone can still be together and we can still have that family time,” she says.

With hotel prices and airfares stubbornly high as the 2023 travel rush continues—and overall inflation squeezing household budgets—this summer is shaping up as the season of travel trade-offs for many of us.

Average daily hotel rates in the top 25 U.S. markets topped $180 year-to-date through April, increasing 9.9% from a year ago and 15.6% from 2019, according to hospitality-data firm STR.

Online travel sites report more steep increases for summer ticket prices, with Kayak pegging the increase at 35% based on traveler searches. (Perhaps there is no more solid evidence of higher ticket prices than airline executives’ repeated gushing about strong demand, which gives them pricing power.)

The high prices and economic concerns don’t mean we’ll all be bunking in hostels and flying Spirit Airlines with no luggage. Travellers who aren’t going all-out are compromising in a variety of ways to keep the summer vacation tradition alive, travel agents and analysts say.

“They’re still out there and traveling despite some pretty real economic headwinds,” says Mike Daher, Deloitte’s U.S. transportation, hospitality and services leader. “They’re just being more creative in how they spend their limited dollars.”

For some, that means a cheaper hotel. says global search interest in three-star hotels is up more than 20% globally. Booking app HotelTonight says nearly one in three bookings in the first quarter were for “basic” hotels, compared with 27% in the same period in 2019.

For other travellers, the trade-offs include a shorter trip, a different destination, passing on premium seat upgrades on full-service airlines or switching to no-frills airlines. Budget-airline executives have said on earnings calls that they see evidence of travellers trading down.

Deloitte’s 2023 summer travel survey, released Tuesday, found that average spending on “marquee” trips this year is expected to decline to $2,930 from $3,320 a year ago. Tighter budgets are a factor, he says.

Too much demand

Wendy Marley is no economics teacher, but says she’s spent a lot of time this year refreshing clients on the basics of supply and demand.

The AAA travel adviser, who works in the Boston area, says the lesson comes up every time a traveler with a set budget requests help planning a dreamy summer vacation in Europe.

“They’re just having complete sticker shock,” she says.

Marley has become a pro at Plan B destinations for this summer.

For one client celebrating a 25th wedding anniversary with a budget of $10,000 to $12,000 for a five-star June trip, she switched their attention from the pricey French Riviera or Amalfi Coast to a luxury resort on the Caribbean island of St. Barts.

To Yellowstone fans dismayed at ticket prices into Jackson, Wyo., and three-star lodges going for six-star prices, she recommends other national parks within driving distance of Massachusetts, including Acadia National Park in Maine.

For clients who love the all-inclusive nature of cruising but don’t want to shell out for plane tickets to Florida, she’s been booking cruises out of New York and New Jersey.

Not all of Marley’s clients are tweaking their plans this summer.

Michael McParland, a 78-year-old consultant in Needham, Mass., and his wife are treating their family to a luxury three-week Ireland getaway. They are flying business class on Aer Lingus and touring with Adventures by Disney. They initially booked the trip for 2020, so nothing was going to stand in the way this year.

McParland is most excited to take his teen grandsons up the mountain in Northern Ireland where his father tended sheep.

“We decided a number of years ago to give our grandsons memories,” he says. “Money is money. They don’t remember you for that.”

Fare first, then destination

Chima Enwere, a 28-year old piano teacher in Fayetteville, N.C., is also headed to the U.K., but not by design.

Enwere, who fell in love with Europe on trips the past few years, let airline ticket prices dictate his destination this summer to save money.

He was having a hard time finding reasonable flights out of Raleigh-Durham, N.C., so he asked for ideas in a Facebook travel group. One traveler found a round-trip flight on Delta to Scotland for $900 in late July with reasonable connections.

He was budgeting $1,500 for the entire trip—he stays in hostels to save money—but says he will have to spend more given the pricier-than-expected plane ticket.

“I saw that it was less than four digits and I just immediately booked it without even asking questions,” he says.


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