Followup to my EMail experiment


I discarded all email I received while on vacation. How did the experiment work?


November 12, 2011

Man walking back with sunrise behind

So the Hacker News folks are having a  discussion about my email experiment last April. Many interesting points were raised. One fair question is “how did the experiment work out?”

In short, it worked incredibly well.

I was mostly worried about annoying the folks sending me email. But the only feedback I got was positive.

I was also a little worried about folks abusing the [urgent] flag. But that didn’t happen, either. I had perhaps 5 or 6 urgent emails, and they were indeed things I needed to handle when I got back. Maybe I’m just lucky when it comes to the people who correspond with me.

The experiment had two positive effects on my life. First, the vacation was genuinely a lot nicer not having to worry about the sacks full of mail piling up for me when I got back. Was that selfish of me? Perhaps a little.

I wasn’t expecting the other side effect. Since I returned from vacation, the quality of email I receive has improved, and the quantity I receive has dropped. I still enjoy interacting with all the people I need to interact with, and I still get to answer all the questions that need answering. It just seems that my inbox is somehow more focussed.

I have a theory. I think that, during the course of the preceding few years, I’d become something of a slave to my email. I’d answer stuff as it arrived. And those rapid responses would in turn trigger another round of email, and another. There was almost an adrenaline rush to it.

So my vacation broke that cycle. And now things are sane (or at least closer to sane).