I’ve been working hard to remove digital distractions from my life.
One of those distractions, or unwanted attention grabbers, is my email.
As I turn to look at my email inbox, it sits there taunting me with its 4,007 unread emails. As I started writing this.
Most of which I assume are spam or newsletters I definitely didn’t agree to be sent, but I can’t be sure because, for the past nine years, I’ve been ignoring most of them.
But I’m aware.
Because despite ignoring them, they still occupy a small part of my brain space (or cognition) where they fester and drain my willpower, little by little.
Email by unsolicited email.
Now, in a better world, these assholes would either a) never send me their shit in the first place, b) unsubscribe me automatically when I haven’t opened the last 3 emails or c) die a slow and tedious death.
But we don’t live in a better world so the only option I have, is to unsubscribe myself.
And whilst some services, like Mailchimp, make it as easy as possible to unsubscribe, most services are archaic data-monsters, whose only purpose is to harvest and horde as much personal information as possible with little inclination to stop.
Since they have no interest in letting me unsubscribe, I ignore them in return.
But by becoming my own emotional detective, I’ve been more able to distinguish which things make me anxious or stressed and which things are fulfilling and give my life meaning.
And lately, I’ve noticed that the brain space my ignored emails are occupying is adding to the weight, small as it may be, of everything else.
And why wouldn’t it?
Between emails, Facebook notifications, Instagram notifications, Twitter notifications, weekly email summaries from Twitter, status update emails from Facebook, this app and that app, these notifications all adds up.
And it’s not that they’re only distractions, they’re time-wasters too. I can’t imagine anyone on their deathbed thinking, “At least I had a lot of followers.”
Now you could argue that I should turn off these notifications because that’s something I can do.
But that’s another thing I then have to do.
It’s another thing to occupy my brain space.
Rather than, “No notifications,” being the default setting.
Apps aren’t mindful, but they should be.
Research also shows that the blue LED light emitted by digital screens suppress our melatonin release by over 50%, which in turn results in lost REM sleep, feeling less rested and sleepier throughout the day and worse, a lingering aftereffect, like a digital hangover, lasts for several days after using a screen where our melatonin release is delayed by 90 minutes.
Not only were they occupying my precious brain space but also preventing me from getting a rejuvenating 8 hours of sleep.
And since apps aren’t mindful I have been turning off notification after notification, for the past couple of months. Even going so far as putting my entire phone on, “Mute,” and keeping it like that most of the time.
The first few days were the worst because I kept thinking, “What if someone needs me and I don’t answer.”
Turn out, no one does.
Between telemarketing calls, mis-sold PPIs or the insurance claim I can make on that accident I haven’t been in, I rarely receive phone calls I have any interests in having.
“Mute,” it is then.
And it has made a tremendous positive difference.
The essence of strategy is choosing what not to do. Michael Porter
I am less stressed.
I sleep better.
I’m reading more books.
I’m deciding when to give my phone attention instead of the other way around.
Giving my phone a little attention, I turn to my unread emails again. The count now reads 4,041.
“Oh, there’s another. 4,042.”
It’s a weekly progress report from Duolingo informing me of my XP score of 0—because that’s a useful report. 🙄
My intention is to reach a point where when I receive an email, I can always be sure it’s something I want to read right away or schedule for later.
Beyond that, I’m looking at extending some of the lessons I’ve learned into real life and reducing those distractions as well, such as watching too much TV or Netflix.
I need all the willpower and brain space I can get if I’m going to become a better me.