Zen Habits Stops Using Email

The War on Email

I’ve been following Leo’s plan to stop using email over at “Zen Habits“. Leo has a specific plan to eliminate emails, including extensive use of Twitter and instant messaging, as well as the targeted use of Google Documents and direct phone communications.

Leo at “Zen Habits” suggests that each of these communication tools are more efficient for the type of communications he intends to use them for, and he can use them to eliminate email from his life altogether.

The Tyranny of Email

In his original post on email communications, Leo discussed how email had become a tyrant in his life. Instead of being creative and productive, Leo spent too much of his time reading and replying to emails he gets.

The emails that overwhelm him might be conversation with friends, job offers, advertisements, e-newsletters, forwarded jokes or plain old spam, but Leo decided there was no reason for him to have to spend time every day (or several times a day) sifting through this mess to get to accomplish little bit of real communication he accomplished.

Simpler Communication

So Leo decided he could break the bad habit of email, like he once quit smoking. For each and every type of email he got, Leo decided there was a better and simpler form of communication to replace it. So that’s exactly what Leo set out to do.

While “Zen Habits” doesn’t necessarily advocate other people ending their reliance on email, he did point out others who have discussed doing the same thing and layed out his plan to end email communications in his life. For those interested in the plan, here is a very basic diagram.

  • Twitter Becomes the Inbox – Most of what he once did with email is now done through Twitter. Twitter is short, sweet and simple, so you don’t get bogged down. Twitter forces you to be succinct. Also, Twitter allows Leo to check his messages once or twice a day by quickly scanning for what’s important. Most important, Twitter posts do not beg a response, as virtually all emails do.
  • Autoresponders to Send the Message Along – While apologizing for this method, Leo is using autoresponders on his emails, so people who don’t read his blog, read his Twitter page or talk to him on the phone will get the message that Leo is “out” on email. He laughed about the automated spam and his autoresponders having a robot conversation ad infinitum.
  • IM and Skype – If someone needs a longer conversation via computer, Leo will use instant message or even Skype. He suggests these are more detailed and happen in real time, so they are simply a better way to talk online than clunky emails strung out over hours and days.
  • Google Documents – For collaborations (I’m assuming with book editors), Leo has chosen Google Documents. He might also use wikis to do the same, though Leo says he might eliminate wiki conversation, too. (Sounds like a possible “War on Wikis”.)
  • Telephone – Finally, friends and family who need to talk to him can pick up the phone and call him, since this is simpler and more direct. Why send an impersonal email, when you can connect with your voice?
  • Weening Email Conversation – A few things remain on the email docket, but only for now. These are things like interviews requests and job interviews, but Leo has his spam filter set only to let specific messages through. He’ll check these every 2-3 days, but only until potential employers and interviewers get the message. Leo suggests this might cost him an eventual job or good pr, but most will get with the program and it’s very worth the loss to simplify his life.

Zen Communication

So there you have it: simpler living without email. Readers have been supportive of Zen Habits so far, though many say they could never stop using emails themselves (mainly job-related).

I love it.

Simpler…thinking outside the box…questioning our basic assumptions about modern communication…I think Leo is on to something here.

My Personal E-Zen

My email situation is still under control, though I have days when the idea of ending email altogether sounds like a good idea. Email is still a tool for me and not a tyrant, but I have friends who receive 10 times the number of emails a day that I do, and I think they would agree that email can be tyrannical. If so, free yourself to live better.

Whether you want to live better, learn a few Zen habits yourself or simply follow an interesting blog about simplifying our complicated world, I would recommend you give “Zen Habits” a glance. Here’s a little back ground on the Zen Habits blog.

Zen Habits – Profile

The Zen Habits blog is written by Leo, a father of six living in the Philippines. Leo is neither a Zen master, a doctor or a life coach. What Leo is, is a man who used the philosophy of simplicity to quit smoking, become a runner, run a marathon, become better organized, begin eating healthier (vegan), double his income and write a novel about it all.

Along the way, Leo has blogged about all these things. While Leo states up front that “Zen Habits” is not about Zen per se or that he’s not claiming to be a practitioner of Zen, he has read Zen books and occasionally does practice Zazen. Leo’s main goal is to better organize and bring simplicity to his life, which will help him achieve the goals he has set for himself.

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