This morning when I got to work I had 19 emails waiting for me in my inbox. There was a mixture of newsletters from type foundries I follow, an email about Stripe’s latest updates, someone has subscribed to my youtube channel, another had left a comment on one of my videos, an email from Webflow about an upcoming conference, about 4 emails from LinkedIn explaining what I’ve missed, several emails from mock up image libraries I use, one automatically generated email letting me know what tasks I have pending with a publisher I’m working with and two from online courses I took over three years ago. 

The reason I had 19 emails waiting for me this morning is that at the start of this week I decided not to check my email from 5-6pm (whenever I finish work) till 9am when I step back into the office. I’ve turned off all notifications, pings and vibrations and have had to basically hide my phone when I get home from work and not get it out till the next morning.

Of these 19 emails I received ‘after hours’ not one of them was an emergency, required immediate action or was a life or death situation. This has been the case all week. I get anything from 15-20 emails during the night to my Design Dept email address and probably about half that to my personal email, the old work email address, the TinyOffice address - I think I have 6 active emails at any one time. So from the moment I leave the office till the time I go back to work I can get anything from 20 to 50 emails. 

Before this week that would present itself as 20-50 interruptions during my night. I have my phone on silent after 6 but I still had the badges pinging so that I’d know if I had another email or not. Obviously with that many emails coming in, everytime I picked up my phone there was a new email to read. Statistically, it was 100% likely to be junk but it still triggered me to have a quick look even if it was just to delete it straight away.

I had always been under the illusion that social media was the huge time sucker to be cautious of. I have set myself up with all sorts of limits and restrictions to the point that I don’t even really enjoy scrolling through shit anymore. I’m so anxious that I’m wasting time and I should be doing something else that it brings me very little joy. To be honest, I think about quitting it completely most days. In fact, maybe today is the day.

I’ve been reading Four Thousand Weeks, Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman which has really made me question how I'm spending my time. As the title suggests, if we have lived to an average age we have about four thousand weeks on this earth. I’m forty and have already had about 2120 weeks alive so far. I’m past the hypothetical halfway mark already! That's fucken terrifying. No wonder I have borderline panic attacks every time I ‘come to’ scrolling through some stupid Instagram feed - what am I thinking! 

Time is always diminishing. We’re always, every single one of us getting closer to the end. None of us know when that time will be so we have to live every day as if it’s our last, because it very well could be! This is stoicism 101 so I’m all over it but it's amazing how quickly distractions slowly start oozing into our ‘to do’ lists, pushing stuff we actually want to be doing to the bottom.

Unfortunately life is not a dress rehearsal. Now that most of us are atheists, or at the very least agnostic, the afterlife is no longer an option. Note: I’ve been a vocal atheist ever since I was given detention for not bringing my bible to assemble when I was 11. For the majority of human history and still in many cultures/religions today, the idea of death isn’t that much of a problem because you're going to end up somewhere awesome with your mates or at the very least, as another being on this earth. Science really tore a hole in that one. 

The realisation that this life is the only one we get has coincided with the increase in everyone being ‘busy’. (Fuck I hate it when someone asks me how I am and I say “busy”. Argh) The reality that this is your one shot at life puts an incredible amount of pressure on us to make it a bloody good one. No wonder everyone feels overwhelmed and stressed. 

There once was a time in human history when ‘time’, as we know it, didn’t exist. Before the industrial age when people lived off the land and would wake when the sun came up and sleep when it went down. You were never late for anything because you just did things as they needed to be done. Milk the cows when they need milking. Harvest food when it is ready to harvest. Unfortunately, life expectancy was about 35 years old but it just illustrates that time hasn’t always been our enemy.

Facing finitude is about facing the fact we can’t and won’t be able to achieve everything that we want to do with our lives. It sucks but it’s impossible so why strive for it. What we do have is what's in front of us right now. Today. When I think about how I spend my time each day, checking my emails after hours was something that had crept in and was pulling me away from what I actually wanted to be doing, which was hanging out with my family, eating, reading, practising the bass (I can nearly play the Ghost busters theme song), anything really that isn’t work related.

I had good social media hygiene but checking emails had slipped through the gaps because they felt more important. Afterall, they’re addressed directly to me. Honestly, most of them are rubbish. I’m only ever going to receive an important email during business hours (that’s why I send this out on Friday’s, ready for your lunch break!). I shouldn’t be reading (or sending for that matter) emails after hours.

The benefit of basically locking up my phone when I’m at home has obviously given me access to more time. The school morning routine, which is normally a shit show of kids not brushing their teeth properly, entire uniforms put on back to front and ridiculous fights about who should use the bathroom first, have been more tolerant because by not checking my phone I’ve given myself more time. All this stuff still happened but I’m there to help and give the kids more of my attention. Every day this week we’ve been ready at least 20 minutes early so the kids have made use of some extra Nintendo time - I even squeezed in a quick Ghostbusters run through. 

Time management is a slippery slope. I get it wrong all the goddamn time but that doesn’t mean I can’t keep trying. “You teach best what you most need to learn” (Richard Bach) which is what this whole blog is about. I think I will drop social media, we’ve survived as a species for so long without it! The only thing that is stopping me is my family and friends who find this blog there. I’m not big on self promotion but perhaps this is a good time to mention that I send this blog out via mailchimp (so my Mum gets it) and if you’ve found any joy in my weekly rants please sign up to get it delivered to your inbox. As Alice would say, I ‘pinky promise’ (the most binding of all the promises) to only deliver it during business hours.

Video of the week
Why Thinking About Death Helps You Live a Better Life | Alua Arthur | TED
Podcast of the week
Smartless: John Krasinski
Font of the week
Ragequit: Font of the week by Ben Zorn

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