A few weeks ago, we had a post published called The Smartphone Syndrome: Are We Becoming Too Addicted To Our Phones For Our Own Good?. There, Yaara wrote why she thinks many people use smartphones way too much, and why they may not be all that great.
While many of Yaara’s arguments are insightful and convincing, I happen to be one of those people who are obsessively tethered to their phone, and may seem (at times) to be addicted to checking email. Rather than hide in the shadows, I’ve decided to explain why I think it’s perfectly fine to check email using my smartphone at odd times.
Peace of Mind
This one is a bit paradoxical. It may seem that checking email repeatedly is a hectic, stressful activity. I say, it’s quite the contrary. First of all, most of the emails I get tend to be positive, pleasant messages (due to the people I tend to associate with). But even more importantly, often I check email on my phone and see that nothing new has arrived – and that can be a very relaxing experience, which actually lets me “be in the moment” more than wondering whether or not I received a reply.
You may be thinking to yourself that most smartphones chime when a new email is received, and that is correct. But my Gmail account is set up with multiple labels, and I have intentionally configured Gmail to notify me only on the primary label, because I don’t want to be interrupted with emails about other projects when I’m in the middle of something. So when I get a free moment, I sometimes pop into Gmail and go into the Label view, scrolling quickly just to see if there’s anything new. And when there is none, I am that much calmer and present.
I often have a hard time waking up in the morning. I’ve been known to hit the Snooze button repeatedly, sometimes for over an hour. These days, my smartphone serves as my alarm clock. So when I grab it, I just hit the Email button rather than the Snooze one. As I lie there on my back, all groggy and sleepy, scanning the pile of emails that accumulated overnight brings me back to life and helps me kick-start another day. Suddenly I want to get up, because there’s stuff I want to do, there are people I want to reply to, and projects waiting to get done.
Of course, this depends on the type of emails you get. If those emails are negative and stressful, then this is a sure-fire way to become stressed. But if most of the emails you receive are interesting ones about people and projects you care about, this is a lovely way to begin your day.
Unlike other smartphone users, I don’t have a signature that says “Sent from my phone, please excuse typos“. That’s because I don’t necessarily want people to think I replied from my smartphone. I make sure to use a very good keyboard (SlideIt when I need to be quiet, FlexT9 when I can speak and dictate my emails), and I just write a complete reply on the spot. Emails should usually be short, anyway.
When I send someone an email and they reply within ten minutes, that’s a great experience for me. As a writer, I’m often on a deadline, and it often happens I need extra information as I’m writing up a review. When I write a developer mid-review and get a reply before I finish writing that review, it makes my work that much easier. That’s why I often try to treat others the same way.
Many people are not very good at waiting. This is more evident in some countries than in others, but in general, queues have a way of making people nervous. When I find myself stuck in a queue that’s not moving, I sometimes pass the time by people-watching or just looking at my environment. But if it’s there’s not much to see, I just as often whip out my phone and see if I have any new emails (or play a quick game or two). This makes time pass that much faster, and I’m actually using it for something productive. Best of all, I remain cool and calm, and save myself unneeded stress.
Being On Time
When I set a time to meet somebody, I really don’t like being late. And one of the best ways to never be late is to be early. This used to have a flip-side, as well. Imagine getting somewhere ten minutes early, and having the other person arrive ten minutes late. I just wasted twenty minutes sitting there doing nothing, and I would have definitely been irked at the other person being so late. Today, I tend to mind it much less. Chances are I could have kept on sitting at that same spot being productive for an hour more.
Of course, many of these arguments also apply to other activities you can do on your smartphone, and not just email. But email has the advantage of actually being productive, and time you spend on email now is time you don’t have to spend on it later.
Okay, your turn. Am I being obsessive about my emails, or do you think these points are valid? Let me know in the comments.