I’ve had a smartphone of some kind for about 8 years now. The first one I got was a HTC flip phone with Windows on it. It lasted about 18 months and then the screen died because it tended to snap shut way harder than necessary. This meant I reverted to an old school Nokia phone for about 6 months until I got an HTC PDA type phone complete with full keyboard and stylus. It was extremely cumbersome, but it allowed me to check mail on the go, and thus a habit was born. Part of this was accelerated by an evening job where I had a 10-15 break every 30 minutes (which is fine if you’re making $40/hr).
I really hit my stride though once I got an iPhone in the fall of 2009. Now I could not only check mail whenever I wanted but also Facebook, Twitter, and whatever else I had an app for. While super convenient, this was (and still is) not good for my concentration. Since I have several jobs that communicate via e-mail, I’ve constantly wrestled with the tension of needing to have e-mail at my fingertips, and realizing it’s really a bad habit to be checking my phone all the time. While it seems justifiable, I’ve come to really think it isn’t, and over this past weekend, I decided to delete the mail app on my iPhone (I had been using Mailbox and really liked it). It’s still on my iPad, but since I don’t have a data plan, I can only check mail on the iPad at home or school.
As you’ll see from my reasons below, this is still in keeping with the overall motivation to keep mail off my phone. I could probably list others, but here are the three main reasons why I deleted the mail app. If they resonate with you, you might consider doing the same.
I Checked It Incessantly
As you might guess, the main reason was that I checked it like 100 times a day. That’s an exaggeration, but several times an hour still gets me close to like 50. Either way, there is no reason to be checking e-mail that often. I can trick myself into thinking there is, but there really isn’t.
At most, maybe checking it 3 times a day would be reasonable, but I found I don’t have the self-control to make that happen. So, Mailbox got deleted, and since you can’t actually delete Apple’s inboard Mail app, I just didn’t ever set it up on my iPhone 5. Because I have two-step verification through Google, I have to have a special password generated to sign in and that means going to a computer, and once I’m there, I don’t need to check it on my phone anymore.
I (Almost) Never Reply From IOS Devices
Another reason it actually doesn’t even make sense to check my e-mail on my phone is that almost always wait to reply when I’m actually at a computer. Texting for some reason is fine, but I still prefer to type an e-mail on a keyboard instead of using my phone. Even on the iPad, when I have the external keyboard, I’d rather just do it from the computer.
This means when I do get an e-mail that needs some kind of response, I just wait until I’m at the computer, but now half-thinking about what I’ll say. Or, I’ll distracted from things I need to focus on by the fact that there are 4 e-mails in my inbox that I need to respond to. Since I’m a Inbox zero kind of guy, I can’t let them pile up on me (or at least I’d rather not know if they are). Also, I like to see the Mailbox picture everyday, so that means keeping a tidy inbox.
If It’s An Emergency I’ll Get A Call
Lastly, if someone really needs to get a hold of me, I’ll get a phone call (or a text). Rarely have I gotten an e-mail that required an immediate response. I like to stick to a 24 policy on returning e-mails, so even if I don’t check e-mail incessantly on my phone, I’ll still get back to whoever e-mailed within 24-48 hours. By checking it on my phone, I’m not necessarily reducing response time.
In the end, I think it all comes down a urgent sense of “needing to know” if someone tried to communicate. That’s probably why I check Facebook too much (also now not on my phone) and why I check Twitter @ replies (though they get texted to me, so I don’t really check as much anymore, or get that many to begin with). All of it tends to feed discontentment and distraction, and I’d like to reduce both of those in my daily life. That being the case, the Mailbox app had to go. Twitter might be next, but we’ll see. If I do, you can expect another post.