Last week, I mentioned that I was de-prioritizing email in my life. So far, it’s been great, and I’ve had some amazing success avoiding email in general by only using webmail. Webmail is harder to get to than launching an app, which means I don’t use it as often. Most importantly, webmail is simple and only offers essential features.
I spent the last four years changing email apps to find one that simplified email, rather than further complicating an already complex system. To be honest, Sparrow was the perfect email app, but it has mostly stopped working since Google acquired it two years ago. Airmail began life as its spiritual successor, but they keep adding features that are useless to me. It’s become the perfect example of software bloat. I’ve also tried Apple’s Mail app, Thunderbird, Postbox, Mail Pilot, and a few others I have generally forgotten, all resulting in similar feature exhaustion.
All I want to do is read and send email, but every app assumes that I want to do more, so much more. My ideal email app puts those two features up front and hides the rest unless I specifically enable them. Much to my surprise, my ideal email app is webmail. I have tried webmail from ProtonMail, iCloud, and Gmail. Their webmail does a great job of clearly presenting email’s core features. They hide the extra features behind settings, make them less visually prominent, and even omit some of the less-used extras.
Webmail’s simplicity allows me to focus on my email, and that’s exactly what I want from an email app. I’m sure a new Sparrow will show up some day, but until then, I’ll always have webmail.
Many years ago, when the internet only made this sound, I opened my first email account at Excite (and yes, it still works). Back then, I thought that email was both the most efficient and the most polite way to contact someone. Unlike sending a letter, you had the possibility of an immediate response. Unlike calling someone, you knew that they would only log in to it when they were ready to. Email was never an interruption.
That last bit has been lost to us. Email is now an interruption to our daily lives, even more so than phone calls, because it’s just so much more popular. We get email notifications on our computers, our phones, our watches, and even in front of our faces. No matter what you’re doing, something is going to let you know that someone wants you to read an email right now. I have spent the last several years under the oppressive rule of email notifications, but no longer.
Starting this week, I have de-prioritized email. Since I only check my physical mailbox for mail once a day, I’m only going to check my email twice a day. Emailed notifications are switched off everywhere, work communication is primarily via Slack, and anyone else who needs me immediately can call or send a text (preferably via Signal).
How am I going to avoid the addictive lure of my email applications? I got rid of them and have switched to webmail only (more on that later). In short, my email is now harder to get to, so it’s no longer a distraction. How will this turn out? So far, I feel more free than I ever have. There are less things clamoring for my attention throughout the day, and I only read my email when I’m ready to, which means I just have more time to do more important things throughout the day. Beyond that, only time will tell.