Email & Zen

As a student, I receive anywhere from thirty to sixty emails a day. I believe those with corporate jobs receive up to more than a hundred at times. The emails I receive are either pointless (information that doesn’t concern me, including a mysterious amount of junk mail mistakenly delivered to the wrong departments), relevant (events or seminars that interest me), or important (emails from my supervisor, forms to fill out and send back, etc.).

Because I have them synced, I check whatever new email I receive every time I check my phone. This feels like a good system – each time I check my email, I feel productive, I feel like I’ve achieved something, but the sad truth is I haven’t done anything, and it distracts from what I actually need to be doing.

The problem lies in the frustrating fact that I am not a machine. I don’t just read the email – I fiddle around with the rest of my inbox, I glance at the icons on my screen, I let my mind drift a little, (How should I respond to this? Do I let my friends know about this? Do I do this now or later?) before distractedly returning to whatever it was I was doing, focus shattered, taking time to rebuild the momentum I lost.

Worse still, if it was something particularly stressful (negative feedback from my supervisor, anything regarding tuition fees or funding, deadline reminders) I spend the next half hour or more pointlessly agonizing over it.

Nowadays, my internet connection stays off in the morning. It stays off as I get up, exercise, eat breakfast. It stays off as I get my reading done (basically the bulk of my work) through the first half of the day. It’s true that a significant portion of people nowadays communicate primarily via text, but I trust anyone to call me on my phone if it’s an urgent enough matter.

I must admit it was incredibly frustrating at first. I used to even have the Internet connection on while I slept, so that I could check my texts, emails, the news, and Facebook notifications as soon as my eyes were open, sometimes even during the brief seconds of consciousness between REM cycles. Without the lure of the internet, I get started on work an hour or two earlier. I’m much more focused, I stay focused, my productivity level stays stable.