Here’s How My Whole “Email Manifesto” Thing Is Going
First off, huge thank you to everyone for the nice green hearts, comments, and love for my original post on creating an email manifesto. It means a lot.
For those of you just tuning into this hot mess of a program, here’s the recap:
- I went in for wisdom teeth surgery a couple weeks ago and gave myself permission to be offline (as in, no work and certainly no email) for 72 hours. I couldn’t make it even 12 hours without checking my inbox, let alone the full 72 hours.
- I thought this was really problematic.
- I created an Email Manifesto to change some habits in my life. It included five main points that are relatively straightforward (I’m not going on the inbox equivalent of a juice detox or something).
How’s it going? I’ve broken down my experiences thus far with each manifesto point. Some stuff is good, some stuff is bad, but it’s definitely a continual work in progress.
Rule #1: Thou shalt go offline by 9pm at the latest.
I’m really proud of myself: I’ve actually strictly followed this rule, and it’s been transformational.
For me, it’s not just about logging out of email; it’s also about giving myself permission to have a life that doesn’t include work at all hours of the day and night.
Instead of sitting on my inbox praying I’m not missing anything, I’ve gotten to hang out with friends, catch up on TV shows and movies (#TheBachelor #JojoForBachelorette), and done a ton of reading.
This past week, work wasn’t the only thing I thought about no matter the time of day. While I love all the amazing projects and jobs I get to work on, there’s a certain joy in clicking the “Sign out” button and meaning it.
And while catching up on a Survivor podcast before bed doesn’t sound big and exciting to most people, allowing myself that time has become important, even if it’s only been a week.
Rule #2: Thou shalt stop apologizing for “just getting to [your] email” even though it’s only been an hour since you received said email.
I’m proud to say I’ve followed through on this, woohoo! This was strangely easier than I thought it would be, and it’s also led to me apologizing less in general, especially over email.
For example, this week I received a couple of emails from people about whether or not my org The Prospect was doing our annual 20 Under 20 list. We decided not to move forward with it this year due to a variety of factors, and in the past, I would’ve apologized profusely for it.
However, I stopped and thought for a second: Was I really at any fault here? Was anyone actually put in danger or hurt from our action of not proceeding with this initiative? No. Our 20 Under 20 list is a privilege, not a right, and I didn’t need to say sorry to people for that. I could explain that we weren’t doing it and move on. No explanations or apologies necessary.
In essence, I stopped fearing coming across as “unlikable” for doing things that were actually pretty neutral.
Rule #3: Thou shalt remind everyone that you are not an auto-responder, and a response should be expected typically within 24–48 hours.
Building on Rule #2, I struggled with seeming like I was nagging for reminding people to email me about things far enough in advance to where I had plenty of time to respond in one or two days and not affect workflow.
For example, some of my writers for various publications know they should be pitching article ideas at least a week before they run out of previous pitches. However, some will wait until mere hours before their latest article is due to send me pitches, one of which needs to be approved for them to turn something in that night.
Why do they procrastinate? I think some of them assume I’ll respond within an hour, which will keep them on track time-wise. But I’ve found that if I don’t respond quickly, I get a series of frantic emails asking where I am and can I please approve pitches ASAP?
This week, I finally put my foot down and admitted to myself that this is an unfair assumption. If it’s taking me more than three days to get to someone’s pitches, I should absolutely be emailed again. That’s on me.
But if someone’s taking advantage of my quick emailing to slack off on their own time management skills, that’s a problem, but it’s not mine to fix. I’m glad this experiment is making me finally say, “Hey, this isn’t okay, and other people need to work on it, not me.”
Rule #4: Thou shalt do something else first thing in the morning besides check email.
Okay, I admit: I’ve been slacking with this one big time. Scratch that; I’ve basically been not following this rule at all. I didn’t realize how much of a habit going on my phone first thing in the AM had become, and I need to make further pivots to get better at this.
To combat the issues I’ve been having, I changed up a couple of things two days ago:
- I moved my phone charging station across the room, so it’s not within arms’ reach of my bed. No more grabbing my phone from the nightstand and scrolling through my inbox first thing when my eyes open.
- My new morning game plan: Wake up, put the electric tea kettle on, go to the bathroom while the water boils, pour myself some tea, stare out the window while it steeps for four minutes to think about ~things~, then open up my computer screen.
I want every movement I make to be a conscious decision. No more auto-pilot to the phone.
Rule #5: Thou shalt not substitute other platforms for email.
That means no one from my professional life is allowed text me, tweet me, Facebook me, or anything else to try and reach me if they can’t reach me via email.
This actually turned out to be less of an issue with people I work with on the reg and more a problem with all the side hustles and freelance projects I work on, especially with those I have personal relationships with.
Just like reminding people to give me up to 48 hours to respond, I’ve had to remind people that business should remain on email, not Facebook or text message. It’s made me feel self-conscious and rude, but people have universally understood.
The bottom line: I’m still working on it. But after committing myself to working on my inbox management skills, I’m feeling a little more in control of my schedule and how I decide to give people my time. I’m even of thinking of applying certain principles from this experiment to other aspects of my life because I love this feeling of newfound digital freedom.
If you’re struggling with something similar, trust me, I get it: It’s hard. But you have to remember that you are worth time away. Take that break. Sign off early. Don’t feel like you have to be chained to your inbox if you don’t want to be.
And if you your inbox to be open all day, that’s okay, too. Just make you’re making this decision consciously and not simply because of out-of-control FOMO like I was.
Anyway, you’d best believe I’ll be logging out of my inbox at 8pm tonight to watch The Voice uninterrupted. It’s the battle rounds, y’all. I’m not missing them for anything.
Have any questions? Feel free to comment below, tweet me, or email me.
I’m a writer, editor, social media manager, and entrepreneur. In recent months, I’ve been published on TIME, Newsweek, Forbes, Cosmopolitan, Elle, and Mashable. Check out my personal website here and follow me on a Twitterhere.
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