In my almost 18 year career in higher education administration, I’ve never gone long away from the office without checking work email, whether overnight or weekends or holidays. And that nervous habit of in-box checking was exacerbated in recent years with the cell phones and portable devices, all synchronized to the work account, vibrating, beeping, or chiming whenever a new message arrived. Then, my check-in habits were always worse during times of relaxation when I had time on my hands: checking email provided a distraction from the mundane episodes of tedium that attend routine slices of life.
I’ve lately grown dissatisfied with the practice, though. How many times over the years did a message derail the tranquility of a relaxing Saturday morning after I peaked into the in-box to find some report of trial or tribulation that couldn’t be dealt with until Monday, anyway? But there the irksome message with its issues appeared, glaring at me there on the patio where I’m sipping my Saturday morning coffee and supposedly escaping the stress of the work week.
Enough of that! Perhaps emboldened by the resolve that grows in pre-retirement, I determined to ignore the work email account for the duration of the 2013 Christmas and New Years holiday. I left an “out of the office” auto-reply before I left on December 23 to let anyone trying to reach me know that I’ll be back on January 2, and all matters will be addressed then. This practice does make me feel a little impertinent, as if the power to read or ignore messages promotes self-actualization (I ignore your email; therefore, I AM!). But guess what? I feel liberated!
From time to time during the holidays, I do look in the email client manager on my cell phone to view count of unopened messages that grows from day to day. But whereas in former seasons I would anxiously open the account to read and respond to those unread messages, this year I click the home key with a smile to close the email app. I don’t want to know what’s inside, much less to read any of the messages. If I’m truly bored or distracted, I use my portable device to check Facebook or the Weather Channel app or ESPN score center where more refreshing diversions and information entertain those idle moments.