As I turn on the PC, the memory of lazy Italian lunches by the Mediterranean quickly fade away. It is not just because it is 6:30am on a cold UK morning, but the sight of the blue-bracketed email counter next to the word “Inbox” is steadily climbing.
It clicks quickly past the 300-mark. I take a call. On my return to the PC; the blue-number has come to rest at 849 emails. I had only spent 9 days away, and although it is only a 4 day-week, my diary is already back-to-back on every one of those days.
A restorative cup of tea is required though it doesn’t help. I sip it as I repeatedly scroll first up and then down the emails. The names, dates and times are all screaming at me in bold font.
I stop myself. “What am I doing”? I can manage this. I need discipline. I knew this was going to happen. It happens every time I go away, and this time I had planned for it. I had put two slots in my diary on my first day back and two further slots the following day to go through my emails. I began to create a structured plan of action to tackle the 849 emails.
First, I filtered out emails on which I was “cc’ed” into a new mailbox – they can be looked at later. I then ordered the remaining emails by sender and group deleted the circulars. It feels good to be making some headway!
Now I am sub-400 emails in the Inbox, with over 400 emails either deleted or deferred. The task feels a little more manageable now; but now the emails need reading.I started at the top with the most recent and work my way down, each time sorting by subject matter and checking that I have read or actioned them. After a productive hour, I stopped. There is plenty to do, but I have another slot that afternoon. I also decide my target: fewer than 50 emails in my inbox by Friday.
I set myself a reward for the task: I promised myself a “tech-free day”. My “tech-free days” are those when I turn off the iPad, discarding it neatly with the “work-iPhone”. The “personal-iPhone” will come with me but only for emergencies! My e-book is out of bounds, as is any TV or music: I am detoxing from technology completely, I do not want any blue-light emit device near me. With that, I pick up a paperback novel, with that comforting new-book smell, and walk off in the direction of Borough Market. No emails, just thoughts of a coffee, a walk along the river and a few treats along the way.
Yes, I accept I have rules in place that I follow to relax. But these rules soon became “it’s what I do” which I hope will just turn into habit. However it happens, these rules provide me a few hours of freedom from emails, calls or checking my phone for those emails and calls. We all need a break sometimes.
Grant Warnsby is Senior Counsel at BP.