Why I Intentionally Deleted Email From My Phone

Yes. You read that correctly. 9 days ago, on August 29, 2011, I intentionally deleted my personal and work email accounts from my iPhone.

Still not convinced? Check out the video of me actually deleting my email accounts.

Can’t see the video? Try viewing directly on YouTube.

Why Did I Do This?

Before I answer that question, I’m curious what your initial reaction was when you read the title of this blog post or when you watched the video. Before continuing, do me a favor and write down what you were thinking (or shouting). We’ll get back to that later.

Ok, so why would I do such a thing? Blasphemy, right? I mean, my bio once read “eats, sleeps, breathes, and sometimes dreams email.” I recently started my own company – a company that helps organizations “leverage the power of events, email and social media marketing…”

I’m crazy, right?

Here’s why I did it.

First, Rachael Herrscher (Today’s Mama) dared me. In this kick ass post, 5 Reasons To Take Email Off of Your Phone. Take a minute to read her blog post first (then come back here). Ok. For those that didn’t read her post (or simply skimmed it), when Jesse Harding and I heard Rachael give her Evo ’11 Ignite talk, she mentioned that she took email off of her phone. I was sitting at the same table as Jesse at the time. I turned to him and said, “No way. That’s BS.”

As it turns out, it was true. As indicated from the title of this post, Rachel details the five reasons why you should take email off of your phone. They include:

  1. You are not present.
  2. You are addicted.
  3. You have refreshed your email while driving.
  4. You think the world needs instant access to you.
  5. You are wasting your time.

As I read through her list of 5, I found myself nodding. And nodding. And nodding. Yes to #1. Yes to #2. Yes to #3. Yes to #4. Yes to #5. As the kids say, OMG.

I was not present. I was addicted. I did check email while driving (at stop lights). I did think the world needed to have instant access to me. I was wasting my time. I want to touch briefly on the “instant access” point. Jay Baer wrote an amazing blog post recently – 6 Takeaways From 23 Years as a Consultant – where he said that speed wins. Specifically:

Whenever possible (when not on an airplane) I try to reply to emails, tweets, calls, etc. as quickly as possible. In under a minute in some cases.

I used to think that. In some ways, I still do think that. However, life is all about choices. I’m making the conscious choice to be present more often. Does that mean that I may not reply to that email immediately? Possible. Does it mean I’m not responsive? Not at all (just not as fast, always). Note: I do realize that Jay’s point is not entirely about email response time.

The Email Addiction

I’m embarrassed to admit how often I was checking email on my phone. Embarrassed. Back when I had email on my iPhone, I checked it:

1. While on a webinar.
2. In the park with my daughter and wife.
3. At stop signs / red lights.
4. While riding my bike.
5. While running.
6. While on the beach.
7. While changing a diaper.
8. While playing with my daughter.
9. While ON a phone call (one of the few “benefits” of AT&T).
10 While engaged in a conversation.
11. At dinner with other people.
12. In the bathroom.
13. The moment before I fell asleep.
14. The moment I woke up.

You get the point, right? If that’s not addiction, I’m not sure what is.

Life Without Email on My Phone

First, I’m thrilled to announce that since I deleted my email accounts from my iPhone 9 days ago, nothing terrible has happened. I’m still alive. I’m still socially connected. I’m still easy to get in touch with. I’m still responsive. When I’m out and about (away from my MacBook), I have real conversations. I look people in the eye. I’m not head down, staring at my iPhone.

I’m noticing more of the world around me. I see things that I have not in awhile. I realize that sounds odd, but when you are always buried in your phone, tapping at the screen … you are not, as Rachael wrote, present. You can’t be. I pride myself on my ability to multi-task. In some ways it’s what allows me to get more done. In (many) other ways, it causes me to miss stuff – to not be present.

Yeah, But…

This next section is what some call “objection handling.” I call it, Yeah, But…

Yeah, but…you still have Facebook and Twitter and Google and [insert app here] on you iPhone. That is true. However, I’ve found that I’m hitting those in spurts – not all of the time.

Yeah, but…you still check email all the time on your MacBook. This one came from my wife, of course. And she’s right. 100% correct. However, when I walk outside, when I go on a run, when I go to the park, when I’m changing a diaper, when I go to the pool, I don’t bring my laptop with me. Again, I’m present.

Yeah, but…you just started your own company. Don’t your clients expect you to be responsive? The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that all clients have my cell phone number (if you are a client and do not have my cell, let’s change that). They can text me. They can call me.

4 Things That Suck About No Email On My Phone

It’s not all unicorns and rainbows sans email on my phone. I mean, mostly, but there are still a few things that I miss.

  1. I can’t email my wife/family pictures or videos of our daughter. This one sucks. Big time. I can text them photos & videos, but not email.
  2. There are those times when I’ve been out and someone has said, “send me a quick email?” and I haven’t been able to. Not a huge deal, but still a potential issue.
  3. Traveling: I’m typing this blog post from an airplane en route to Charlotte, NC for the Social Fresh event. (The guy next to me has been replying to emails like it’s his job (maybe it is). In the time it took me to write this section, I’m pretty sure he’s drafted 42 emails. In some ways, I’m kind of jealous. He has “less work” to do when he gets off the plane. Or does he?). There are many times where it would be awkward to pull out my 15″ MacBook Pro and start emailing. On top of that, wifi is not available everywhere (yet) and i don’t have one of those portable hotspot gadgets. I don’t have much to “report” on this one yet, but should have more in a few days – once Social Fresh is over.
  4. I can’t check email while in the bathroom. Come on! Admit it. You check your email while using the facilities. (h/t Eric Boggs).

What’s Next?

Lots of folks have asked me, what’s next? How long do you anticipate keeping email off of your iPhone? Is this permanent or just part of the challenge?

The answer: I’m not sure. The original challenge from Rachael was one week. It’s been 9 days. Will I ever put email back on my iPhone? At this point, I have no intentions to. However, I’m human. I reserve the right to change my mind.

What about you? Are you up for the challenge? Will you join me … and Rachael … and Jesse?

Do it. Video the process. Blog about it. Share in the comments below.

Finally, don’t forget to share (in the comments) what your initial reaction to the title of this blog post was. Just curious.

64 comments
Jesse Harding
Jesse Harding

@Eric: I don't think DJ ever made any comment about this being the "right" or "enlightened" way.

Here's my take away: Have you ever been talking on the phone while surfing the web and realize you haven't heard a word the person you are talking to has said? I just did that! That's what this is about. Just being where you are. If you are on the phone, be on the phone. If you are surfing, surf.

It's not an attack on email at all (in reference to your library comment). 8-5 is when most people are financially obligated to be online and available. So yeah, if you are at work, on your computer, check your email! Manage that time how you see fit. If you are driving home, drive! If you are at dinner with friends, leave your phone in your pocket and enjoy their company!

Not everyone has this issue but I do think the numbers are increasing and completely removing email from your phone is one creative way (albeit drastic) to cleanse/realign/refocus.

Eric Vessels
Eric Vessels

I know you cant say it because of how you've framed it. I get that. Each his own, but no I won't be joining the enlightened anti-iPhone email club. ;-)

DJ Waldow
DJ Waldow

You are certainly entitled to that opinion. I don't bullshit on my blog (or in person). I tell it how I see it. Now, could that change? Sure. Again...mention that in the post.

DJ Waldow
DJ Waldow

To answer your "guess" ... nope. I talk about that in my blog post.

Eric Vessels
Eric Vessels

Why not delete email on your laptop and just check email between 6-8pm in the library?. Just manage your life already and stop looking for little magic tricks. No amount of gimmick will make you present. You can be in the now without fooling yourself with something like this.

Eric Vessels
Eric Vessels

...and my guess is instead of being more present you are now thinking to yourself "shit. wish I could check email real quick on my iPhone!". ;-)

rj_c
rj_c

I have to admit that initially I bought a Smartphone many years ago to have a bit more freedom especially from the perspective of being able to step away from the office and still be productive.

I have to agree that over the years it became more of a becoming slave to my phone than reaching freedom. When I saw the video it helped me understand what you where doing and I might take the challenge also.

Great post!

Garmoe
Garmoe

You've certainly given me a lot to think about DJ. I just got an iPad, so I was thinking I might just return to my old phone, since realistically I rarely need e-mail or anything else I have on my iPhone, now that I have an iPad nearby. I totally agree with you on the points above. While it feels more efficient to be able to check and send e-mail at a moment's notice, is it really? Not often.

superdumb
superdumb

I rarely check email on my phone but I do get slightly anxious when I see the numbers accumulating on my mail button. Good for you.

corrieborris
corrieborris

Brave new world!! Just deleted all mine. I say that should be the next 28 day challenge. The spreadsheet will turn into a rehab group session.

troynalls
troynalls

Thanks! I took email off my phone 2 years ago.....People thought I was nuts but by telling my clients I did not have it on my phone it seems they gave me more time to address their concerns. Good deal!

technotheory
technotheory

I loved reading this post, and have begun catching up on the rest of your blog after a few friends sent this on to me. What a great experiment--I've spent way too long trying to get away from email and building tools that help so I can empathize. Just thought I'd throw out an idea in case you wanted to give it a try--if you grab AwayFind for your iPhone then you can get alerted of any one or two (or whatever) people you're waiting on and read the whole email, and even reply...without needing to setup mail checking on your phone. So that'd be like a get-out-of-jail-free card for what you're doing... if there's ever one person or topic you're looking for (you can create all kinds of rules for this stuff on our website or in gmail). It's my app so I'm ridiculously biased, but honestly it's just a suggestion to help.

I'm anxious to see how long you make it, and if it does end up being permanent. Presence is so important, and technology really does often create a barrier from those we're with rather than being a vehicle to deeper relationships...which is all backwards from the original intent. It's my rason d'etre, so I appreciate the support and great post. Keep up the good work, DJ!

RickGalan
RickGalan

Nice dude. I came to a very similar realization a few months ago, but haven't been able to go cold turkey. What I did do was remove any kind of email notification from my phone. So the emails are there, in the background, queuing up for me to look at if I wish, but I am not "reminded" of their presence. I've found that has really helped me be in the moment when it matters. For example - playing with my kids, phone in the pocket... I never even have the thought to check my phone in those situations anymore because it's not interrupting me. But going completely off it? I love the flexibility of being able to work from my phone wherever I need to.. It's all about self-discipline right? :)

iGoByDoc
iGoByDoc

WOW... big move.

I laughed at your #1 as we both were checking our emails while prepping for (and I think while on) the webinar we recorded here at SEO.com.

Anyway, while I applaud you, I do not think i could join you.

The fact is, I am addicted. I live my work, and at some points throughout the day I am just not in front of a computer. So, email on the phone is imperative for me. Also, I have way too many email accounts (a problem in itself), but the phone allows me for quick scanning and deleting garbage, so when I do get to my PC, the old inbox is cleaner.

However, since the first step to any addiction is to admit you are addicted, maybe I will reconsider and try this at some point for a while and see if I survive, and maybe gain some sanity back.

I get your point about the phone, and clients can call you whenever. BUT sometimes a call can last much longer than a quick email, and a quick response. For me, calls can sometimes be a much bigger waste of time. Obviously depends on what the conversation is about.

Thought provoking post DJ... enjoyed the read!

Doc

Ricardo Bueno
Ricardo Bueno

You know, reading this, my initial reaction was: "hmm... That doesn't sound like a bad idea." And after reading the full post, it still doesn't sound like a bad idea. But I'm not down to try it, heh.

I see how it's useful and I agree with the point about being connected. I can't tell you how many times I'm out with friends and I'll find just about any opportunity to look at my email and respond to something. These days, I'm conscious of that and so I make it a point to just not check my phone if I'm at dinner, or out with a group of friends.

Latest blog post: The Sandbox

kirstenwright
kirstenwright

I was totally shocked when I read the title...and I was all ready to come in here and totally berate you for your choice. BUT - after reading the reasons, the logic, and nodding my head with every single 'are you addicted' behavior, this may be something I need to consider! The big downsides for me as I see are the not being able to email photos (I send at least 1 a day...), and the whole "stuck somewhere, only have my phone & need to get work done" thing. I am thoroughly impressed and interested to hear more as the time w/o it continues

SuzanneVara
SuzanneVara

Congrats DJ! I did it a year ago. Yes, one year ago and I have never turned back. I do not miss it, I am more focused on the conversation, my son and my friends. I was so addicted that I even checked an email while in the shower (and flooded the floor).

Sure there will be times that you feel you need it and may consider turning it back on but then again you may want to keep the peace that you have now forever.

Good luck and stay strong!

coreycreed
coreycreed

Nice post and congrats, DJ. Personally, I have worked hard to not get too much email. I have created rules, etc to make sure that my inbox is only for real people specifically writing me. All automated stuff, social media, etc gets sent to specific folders that I check at specific frequencies. So I don't have much email to check. That's what works for me. Happy you have found something that works for you.

BerrakDC
BerrakDC

I've honestly considered this. Now that I'm freelancing full-time, my email is how EVERYONE gets ahold of me, but then again, I have sync turned off on my phone. So all of my apps, from Hootsuite to email, only get updated when I choose to do so. It's more of a deterrent if I haven't updated my email on my phone and it takes a couple of minutes to update - especially if the last time I checked it on there was more than 24 hours ago.

Kristen'Westy'Westfield
Kristen'Westy'Westfield

Kudos, dude! Your exploration in life never ceases to amaze and entertain me! Every time I read your blog I think, "DJ never ceases to amaze me with the way he spices sh*t up!". I'm torn about this topic. I recently deleted my work email account because the constant "DING!" drove me bananas - receiving over 65 pieces of mail a day! There was only so much "DINGING!" a girl could handle. But, I'm borderline addicted to my personal email account on my phone at the current moment. It all started with a pipe dream! LOL My friend and I challenged each other to a competition where we're collaboratively working on writing a novel - passing off one paragraph at a time to each other to see where our story could end up. At this current point we have 10 pages and it's going strong! The excitement of writing a story with every intent to publish it has me hesitant to delete my Gmail account, but in due time, I'll do it! :)

CaseyKohner
CaseyKohner

Leaving on a 10 day vacation Friday and the first thing I plan to do is remove my work email from the iPhone. They know how to get ahold of me if needed.

JayBaer
JayBaer

I applaud you. I won't join you, because part of what I sell my clients is response time. But I commend you on making the choice.

derek048
derek048

I think the "cleanse metaphor" is spot on. Nothing wrong with a reboot to foster awareness of self control and remind you that being conscious of staying present is what's important.

jeremyhall
jeremyhall

I think this is a great exercise in control, like many others we can do. Everything in moderation, right? Though I might consider the challenge, to me it is like a "cleanse" diet, good for a time to help you take back control. In the long run it's about self-control. I prefer to leave the tools available to me, but try to be my own master simply by exercising that restraint I've can easily forget.

timbrechlin
timbrechlin

Huh. Definitely some food for thought. I'm pretty sure my wife would bet that I wouldn't last two days.

To paraphrase Twelve Steppers, "We admitted that we were powerless over email, that our lives had become unmanageable."

I just might do this. I'll noodle on it over lunch today. As always, DJ, your writings make me look at something from a different perspective.

Tim_Weaver
Tim_Weaver

What did I think when I read about this on Twitter, then saw your post title? "Good for him" immediately followed by "So what?" I just don't get why people would care whether you, "the master of all that is email" or whatever people call you, would care if you choose not to use email on your phone.

Tim

Phoenix

"I take the social out of social media" :)