Three months ago, I deleted email from my phone.
Like most self-employed solo operators, I've got to hustle. Responding to email is part of that hustle, whether I'm physically in the office or not. Being able to do that from a phone is a pretty good thing. But like everything in life, you can have too much of a good thing. There's a cheesy saying in business and leadership books that goes something like "Do you own your business, or does your business own you?"
Mine owned me.
When you're in a creative field, so much of your success comes from having some breathing room in your schedule and the freedom to create. My best ideas have always come when I'm relaxed. First thing in the morning over a cup of coffee, in the shower after a good workout, or sitting 20 feet up an oak tree waiting on a whitetail. Having time to think, to try new techniques, and to go back to the drawing board if necessary is all part of a creative endeavor. Having control of your time and protecting it is crucial to growing as an artist.
I knew that, yet I'd let myself become a slave to my email and the interruptions that came with it. Seemingly every time I swiped to refresh my inbox, a client needed something new, a print or apparel order came in, a design needed revised or a deadline got cut even shorter. It was unending, and I was becoming addicted to the little adrenaline rushes that came from each request.
One day I was listening to an EntreLeadership podcast featuring an addiction expert. He said the same parts of the brain that are activated when we play slots in a casino are the ones that activate when we check our email. That hit me pretty hard. Every year at SHOT show, I see people sitting alone in front of a slot machine, pulling that brass lever and watching for those cherries and diamonds and bells to stop spinning, hoping they line up. It's a sad sight, really. Most of them are old. Some even have oxygen tanks next to them. I'd think "How lame is that?" as I walked past, then pull my phone out and refresh my email to see if a print order came in since I got off the elevator...
There had to be an alternative. A new, better way to handle email that didn't leave my clients hanging, but also didn't destroy my personal life in the process. So I sat down and thought it over. What I discovered was this: as a creative, nearly every email I get requires me to actually do something. A new project needs to start, a current one needs revising, files need to be sent to a printer, etc. All of these tasks are actually done in my office or studio. Very, very rarely can I simply reply "Approved" or forward an email from my phone and actually get work done.
So if I can't do anything about these email requests while I sit in a deer stand or hang out with my family, why am I reading them in the first place? All they do is add stress, cultivate distraction and dilute my efforts towards the work that I'm actually paid to do and the people in my life that I enjoy hanging out with.
So I deleted email from my phone. I decided to cut myself off from the adrenaline IV and only handle emails from my iMac or laptop, when I'm in a position to actually do something about them. But I didn't do this in my slowest time of year, typically in late spring. I did it during October, in my absolute busiest time of year, just to see what the results would be. If it could work during this time, it could work all year.
So what happened? Well, I was more effective for starters, handling more client work than I ever have this year. It was my busiest year ever, and keeping work demands at bay seemed to help me stay fresh and have the mental capacity to handle deadlines better. When I was with Kim and Rhett, I was actually with them, rather than mentally checking out every time my inbox re-filled. Not to mention the times I sat in a tree I was actually hunting. A pretty cool concept.
I'm not saying this revolutionized my life by any means. I still checked email 3-4 times a day, even from a laptop while on the road. But it did give me more mental freedom on a day-to-day basis. It gave me some control back of my time, which is the one thing we never get back. So try it. I swear, it won't kill you, and it may be the best thing you do for yourself in 2018.