Life without email?

For most technology professionals (really most professionals of any kind) email is so integrated into our work that we can hardly imagine life without it.  Sure, it can be a distraction at times and – especially if you carry a wireless device – hard to escape from.  But it also greatly enhances productivity, allows us to communicate quickly and effectively and to have asynchronous interactions with a great number of people.  I know in my own work life I send and receive between 200 and 300 emails a day.  And since I’m already tied up on the phone or in meetings for at least 5 or 6 hours in any given day, email allows me to be significantly more productive (and to process more information and communication with a far greater number of people) than without it. 

So it’s with much curiosity that I’m watching my friend Mark Solon – a partner at Highway 12 Ventures in Idaho – experiment with an email free summer.  He describes the heart of his thesis this way: If the people who sent the majority of those e-mails knew that I didn’t have an inbox, they would have either picked up the phone and called me or (and this is the heart of it) probably wouldn’t have bothered because it really wasn’t that important after all.  The link above will take you to the article he wrote about the project. I like Mark, but I’m skeptical that this is going to work.  Even with his secretary printing out important documents (board packages and the like), the limits of old school communication in my mind significantly outweigh the upside from people self filtering their communications with you.  Not to mention, I’d be perpetually worried that I was missing something.

We’ll see what Mark has to say at the end of the summer.  I’m curious in the meantime – could you live without email?

  • Cory Levy

    Interesting experiment. I probably could not live without email because it is something that is integrated into my schedule. Everyday before and after school, I check my email. I have been doing this since the 4th grade! During the summer, I check it periodically throughout the day via iPhone.

    When I spoke at my elementary school, I learned that a third grader checks his email periodically throughout the day. Then again, he is different and reminds me of myself when I was a third grader. He is an entrepreneur at heart, without even knowing what that word means . I had no clue what that word meant for a while and still do not have a straight forward definition.

    However, I think my friends might be able to live without email. It is something that majority of them do not check periodically everyday. Slowly, email is becoming more and more important to check but I think the more appropriate question to ask is “Could you live without Facebook”? The answer to that question is going to be on my blog later today!

  • MikeK

    Mark is just making a choice on a personal preference for communication. In his case: increase phone calls, decrease or even eliminate email. Personally, there is no way I would prefer to increase the amount of calls I'm getting and I'm probably in good company. Mark's experiment is entertaining and provocative as a blog post though. But not much more in the professional world.

  • Bruce

    I've had an email account continuously since 1988 and even then it became an integral part of how I communicate. My emails have the exact same tone and voice as if I were talking to you. In any case, in all of that time, the longest I've been without email is two weeks while I was in Kenya / Uganda for a little over a month working on an exhibit about Lake Victoria. And, even then I was able to keep it down to two weeks by splicing into my Nairobi hotel's telephone connection and bypassing the operator at the switchboard.

  • While I could “live without email” I have no interest in that particular reality.

  • G

    No, or I'd never be able to “talk” to my husband!

    • sethlevine

      there's always twitter, my dear!

  • Great food for thought… When thinking about the myriad of ways I use Email 2.0 (I'm a gmail user), I don't think I could go more than a day or two without it. Here's a quick list of all the things I use my gmail account for today:

    1) Regular Email Correspondence
    2) Important File/Account/Information Archival (think frequent flyer numbers, lists of people, account logins, official documents)
    3) On the fly addressbook/maps management (I send short emails with an address or flight number to my email, rather than printing something out or knowing where the original information is stored)
    4) On the fly to do list management
    5) IM/Chat on demand in the flow of whatever email I am trying to respond to
    6) Essentially my communications hub across my mobile device, my laptop, and any other terminals from which I access my email