This feeds into one of my golden rules for getting control of email in your life. There are several other elements I use to tame the email beast but this is one of the basic rules: Do not work out of your inbox.
To which I’ll add: not an online one anyway.
If you spend your life in your email inbox with new emails constantly pinging and popping then you are sentencing yourself to a life of email misery. You’ll almost certainly never get on top of anything. Worse, you make it harder to do all the other tasks well. We all need to refer to email conversations or documents as part of the process of larger pieces of work – but you can never really concentrate properly on those while you are getting intermittently disturbed and distracted. It’s just dismal.
It’s important to me that when I turn on my email app I can check past messages without new work coming in. That gets managed in batches at other times.
The only way to make that work is to be able to turn your email app offline.
It is the most basic function, yet it is crucial to email and your wellbeing.
Outlook is a dog. Not a lovely cute fun, puppy-like one. A grumpy snarling barely fit-for-purpose mutt. But at least it has a work offline button. As basic as it seems, I’m depressed about how few apps have these. Even the latest and greatest just don’t seem to regard it as important functionality. One could become cynical about this. Naturally, people making email apps want you to think of email as being tremendously important. They don’t want you to adopt a position where it is just a quick tool, one that doesn’t necessarily dominate your life. Could that be a factor in their unwillingness to just turn off email?
It makes me mad as hell. What I would actually like is an email app that allows you to turn each email account on and off at will. It’s very common for people to have more than one email account and it would be unbelievably helpful to be able control the flow of work with an account-specific offline button. A nice clear button and no chance of email sneaking through. I’m no programmer but how hard that can be?
In the meantime, here is my fix: use Radio Silence.°
Radio Silence lets you control which apps can access the internet. Mac only I’m afraid and I’m not sure of a PC equivalent – though I’m sure a quick Google will turn up some options.
Spark is a lovely email app° to use and they even have the utterly brilliant ‘send later’ functionality baked in. (I’ll write on that another time.) As good as Spark is, they also lack in the offline options, so I use Radio Silence° (well worth the $9) as my hack of choice. I have to open another app but it means I can securely turn off Spark and concentrate on the task in hand without the dreaded ‘boing’ of another email dinging in my brain.