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Mark Evans

The great escape from the inbox Add to ...

During last week’s March break, I escaped from the inbox – well, almost.

As I was going away for five days to a YMCA camp near Halibuton, Ont., I told my wife that I was bringing my laptop, but promised to be judicious about checking e-mail or surfing the Web. Given my complete lack of discipline when it comes to both, my promise was met with much skepticism.

E-mail is a key part of my consulting business, which explains why I spend a lot of time (too much time?) using it. I am an inbox junkie.

I wasn’t quite sure whether my e-mail promise could be kept, although I knew that the consequences – a disappointed partner – would not be good.

Upon arriving at the camp, I caught a lucky break. There was no Wi-Fi and cell-phone reception was, at best, okay. This meant that surfing the Web was going to be a non-starter, while e-mail would be hit and miss.

The camp had a wide variety of outdoor activities, which meant the days were busy. This left little time to be on the computer, let alone inside.

At first, my need to check e-mail was difficult to resist. In some respects, I felt like a junkie looking for fix. But I resolved that if I couldn’t control the pull of e-mail on vacation, I was a lost cause.

Rather than go cold turkey, I decided to take a more realistic approach by spending 15 minutes in the morning and another 15 minutes at night to check e-mail. It was strange to do it just twice a day, but I discovered that was more than enough.

Much to my surprise, my usual need to check e-mail quickly disappeared. By the end of the week, the nightly e-mail check lasted just a few minutes.

All in all, I kept my promise, which my wife appreciated. It doesn’t seem like a big deal but when the inbox controls your life, taking a break is a major accomplishment.

Ttoo many people have terrible or no discipline when it comes to e-mail. We scour our inboxes incessantly throughout the day and night, often checking our smartphones when we think no one is noticing. We check e-mail during conversations, at meals, upon waking up in the morning, and just before going to sleep.

The funny part is the that inbox will be waiting, whether we check twice or 20 times a day. The more disciplined we can be about e-mail, the healthier, happier and more productive our lives will be.

Special to The Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is the principal with ME Consulting, a communications and marketing strategic consultancy that works with startups and fast-growing companies to create compelling and effective messaging to drive their sales and marketing activities. Mark has worked with four startups – Blanketware, b5Media, PlanetEye and Sysomos. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshmarketing and meshwest conferences.

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