The Last Days of Email

Re-humanising the way I communicate

Andy Swann
Dec 30, 2014 · 3 min read

In the final days of email, I started to switch off.

First, I switched off notifications from the various social media accounts that had gone unread and filled my inbox daily. Then I started unsubscribing from the many, many newsletters and advertising mailings I until now had received with increasing regularity — but never read. Then, I looked at what was left. It amounted to very little.

Almost my entire inbox was noise.

With the noise removed, I could tune in to the important messages as they arrived. But, maybe subconsciously, maybe because me and email just never got on, I quickly found that I’d already moved important conversations and interactions elsewhere. I was left with an empty inbox — and no impending apocalypse.

Although I’m waiting until January 1st 2015 to put on the auto-responses, I’m already feeling liberated. The days spent constantly glancing at my phone, or maximising the Outlook window in the twitching hope of finding something new, are gone.

I’m still 100% connected, potentially more so. Notifications pop up on my phone when my various communication accounts have things for me to look at, but I don’t feel the horrific twitch to check these incessantly in hope — I just react when it’s a convenient time.

Because beneath it all, I have a phone.

Conversation is the must human contact and if there’s something we need to discuss, what more direct way to do it than picking up the phone?

This move away from email is about more than productivity and organisation, it also pushes me to stop hiding behind the easy option… sending words. My ability to communicate in a real way is now necessary, the comfort blanket’s gone. If I want to communicate with you, I need to think about it first — make it genuine, make it responsive and make it human.

Admittedly, there are worries, legitimate ones too:

  • I know that most still use email, so my lack of it will inconvenience or annoy others. For that I apologise.
  • I have concerns about chosen communication tools that don’t offer native apps for my phone, mainly around missed notifications. But it’s up to me to make checking them at a certain time each day part of my routine.
  • I’m aware that there will be some things that, because of the way the world works at the moment, will have to be sent to me by email. I’m ready to minimise them.

I take heart because I know others have done it and are doing it. A movement is starting — here are the pace setters:

I’m feeling confident, but mostly I’m feeling great about communicating in better, more appropriate and more human ways.

When I set out on The Work Project, I was exploring the effect that ‘work’ as a concept or structure has on us. Productivity and personal organisation are major parts of that. Out of all the major changes I’ve made so far, giving up email is going to give me the most instant hit of benefit.

I can’t wait.

2015 is the year I go email free. Let’s communicate!

The Work Project

To understand ‘work’ conceptually, structurally and personally, I need to change my relationship with it. Can I go 12 months outside the usual structures and still make a living?

    Andy Swann

    Written by

    Author of The Human Workplace, experimenter, explorer. Founder of My Amazing Team, rethinker of the relationship between people, organizations, work and self.

    The Work Project

    To understand ‘work’ conceptually, structurally and personally, I need to change my relationship with it. Can I go 12 months outside the usual structures and still make a living?

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