It is amazing to me how quickly culture changes, especially in the realm of technology. My friends and I were having a conversation yesterday about some of the interesting culture changes that have happened within Cru in the past 15 years or so, that I also believe are true of most of America in general. One of the ladies in the conversation had joined staff in the early to mid-90’s, and she was telling us that she remembered when the Operations director at the time had to mandate that staff check their email at least once every 3 days, in an effort to adapt to this “new” communication tool and be most effective in ministry.
Once every 3 days?? That seems crazy to us in today’s world. We literally laughed out loud when she said that. For the younger generation that was turning 5 or 10 in the mid-nineties, we only have faint memories of life before email. I remember when my family got our first desktop computer, and then when I was finally allowed to have my first-ever personal email address: BabiesRMe@aol.com. No, I’m not joking. That was my actual email address. It was 1997, I was 12, and thought I was the coolest kid ever. Do you even remember AOL? *Bing! You’ve Got Mail!* I loved that little voice. My brother and I had specific times of the day we were allowed to “go online”, and I thought it was awesome that I could check my email a few times a week.
Now it seems like most people freak out if they don’t have instant access to their email every minute of every day. People have their work email tied to their smart phones, blackberrys, computers…it won’t be long before we have little chips installed that will send emails right to our brains. Ok, maybe that is a little bit drastic, but in my opinion we are beginning to spiral a little out of control. It’s time for a reality check.
I propose a new mandate: Only have your work email on one source (preferably your computer), and you can only check and answer emails from that address during your normal work hours.
Seriously. Give it a try, and experience freedom from the email leash. I have people who send me work emails in the middle of the night when they can’t sleep, on the weekends, holidays, days off, and more. For a while I was one of those people – checking my email constantly and responding to them at all hours of the day and night. Well, about 6 months into my new job I was sitting on my couch at 9pm reading and responding to work emails. I looked up and realized what I had become – someone so tied to my job that I couldn’t leave it even after I left the office. So, that day I shut down my work email and decided to try something new and radical: only working during working hours. What?! I know. I open Entourage while I am at work, and shut it down before leaving for the day. I do not read or respond to work email at night or on the weekends, and I love how much time and freedom it has given me to do other things that I love – reading books, blogging, scrapbooking, journaling, going on walks, watching movies, being with people, watercoloring, crafts, cleaning and decorating my home, and etc.
I know that everyone’s work is different – hours, days of the week you work, type of job, family, whatever. The point is not to restrict it to Monday through Friday from 9-5. The point is to know what hours you work, and what hours you don’t. The hours that you work, check your email to your hearts content. Read, respond, file, delete, repeat. But, when your work for the day is finished, make the choice to leave it alone (including email) until the next day. If it is a true emergency, they shouldn’t be emailing you anyway. Keep those hours that you are not working separate. I can almost guarantee that if you try it, your productivity will go up instead of down. Your brain needs a break from your job, and quite frankly, your job needs a break from you.
Ok. I’ll get off my soapbox now.