Elliot Jay Stocks is a designer, speaker, and author. He is the Creative Director of Adobe Typekit, co-founder of lifestyle magazine Lagom, founder of typography magazine 8 Faces, and an electronic musician.

Time away from email

Posted on 18 April 2011 Comments

Article illustration for Time away from email

We had some friends over this weekend, and when I came to check my email this morning, I realised I hadn’t done so for the entire weekend. And it was lovely.

As anyone who is self-employed or runs a small company will attest, this is something of a rarity; checking email at various intervals is an act we naturally slip into doing when we care deeply about the projects we’re working on. But it doesn’t have to be this way, and if we’re honest about it, it probably shouldn’t.

Just shy of three years ago, I upped sticks and decided to live in Norway for the summer, which also coincided with my decision to leave full-time employment. Whilst living in Norway, the house I was staying in had no WiFi; the only means of internet access was a lone ethernet cable protruding from the landlady’s daughter’s bedroom, and I — in an attempt to not be seen as a perverted Englishman with a slightly unhealthy need for the web — limited the time I spent using the desk outside the poor girl’s door, and instead worked from a couple of fantastic coffee shops in town. It was a great time, the atmosphere in the shops was unbeatable, and all was well in the world. I was possibly more productive than I’ve ever been, too, because I knew I’d have no internet access as soon as I left the ‘office’.

At the time, data roaming was even more expensive than it is now, so I had that turned off on my iPhone. The result was that the only time I ever checked my email — or indeed did anything vaguely work-related — was during the hours of 10pm – 5pm. And again, it was lovely.

This weekend’s email-less fun reminded me of that time spent in Norway in 2008. I remember that it was strange not having constant web access at first, and I certainly fell back into my old routine of constant-email-checking once I got back to England and turned data back on, but for that summer, I had a very healthy work / play divide, and that’s something I think I need to get back.

This coming weekend is Easter, which means that I get to reap the rewards of public holidays on Friday and Monday. So, as a little test, and because I really need some proper downtime, I’m going to disable Mail on my iPhone on Thursday night and not switch it on again until I’m back on Tuesday morning. Who’s with me?

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