Email Sabbatical: is it all it’s cracked up to be?

Man, I love pretending that this blog has anything at all to do with the world of hard-hitting journalism. I just read my own subtitle in Announcer Voice and totally cracked myself up.

Moving on.

So Mona and Jess and a bunch of people whose names aren’t coming to mind at the moment have asked me to “report back” on the whole email sabbatical thing.

And — if you’re not in the loop — my duck and I decided to take a break from email for all of 2009 as one of my many experiments in how to run a successful business while still maintaining some semblance of sanity.

Actually I was hoping we’d make it a week. Setting the goal for a year was just crazy-talk.

That was a month ago.

So yeah, I’m reporting back. Here goes — my thoughts on Life Without Email.

Let’s start with the surprises …

Actually there were pretty much only surprises. Seven of them, to be exact.

I’ll try to make most of them pretty short. Last one is the biggest deal, by far.

Surprise #1: I adore being on email sabbatical!

A little background …

I freaking LOVED email. Madly and obsessively. Addiction was not even the word for it. So, for the record, I was not expecting to enjoy or appreciate my email sabbatical. But I was willing to take it on the chin in order to be able to keep running my business.

I have only one thing to say to that and that’s hahahahahahahahahahaha.

Life without email is pure unadulterated joy.

Surprise #2: People actually, you know, listen to me and stuff!

Before Email Sabbatical, I was getting hundreds of email messages a day. Hundreds.

When I first announced here that I wasn’t going to be answering them anymore, it was clear to me what was going to happen.

Here’s the way I pictured it: First a flood of sobbing, fist-shaking “How can you do this to us?!” email, then a slowing-down as people realized I was serious and then it would be back to business as usual.

By which I mean that I’d still be getting the same insane amounts of email, but the lovely Marissa would be answering them.*

*Marissa always signs her own name so no need to worry about whether any correspondence is “really” coming from me or not.

What actually happened? In reality? I stopped getting insane amounts of email. The flood slowed to a trickle.

Apparently, the people who write to me actually read this blog. I was stunned. It was the most brilliant thing ever.

Seriously. Thousands of people around the world stopped writing to me because I asked them to. I mean, good grief. I had no idea it worked like that!

Really. Had I known that all I had to do was ask, I would have gone on email sabbatical years ago.

Surprise #3: Short meetings! I mean, really short.

I expected to have to meet with Marissa every day for at least half an hour just to give her instructions on how to deal with all the enormous backed up piles of email.

Nope. Every few days she’ll have three or four that she’s not sure what to do with. That’s it. It’s not even a big deal.

Surprise #4: What’s with all the snail mail!?

Tomorrow in the Friday Chicken I’ll list some of the neat stuff that’s been showing up in the mail box lately, but let me just say that this is the most “real, live mail” I’ve gotten in my entire life.

Now that people know Selma and I aren’t doing email, they send cards. It’s the sweetest thing in the entire world.

Seriously? I’ve been leading teleclasses for a couple of years now. I’ve never gotten a thank you note before. I mean, a real one. On a pretty card. What?

Sure, people used to send books they wanted me to review and stuff like that, but now I just get presents. Very cool.

p.s. I LOVE YOU GUYS TOO!

Surprise #5: You really can say everything you need to in 140 characters.

When people need something from me or have a question, they send me a direct message on Twitter.

And — to my astonishment — I’ve found that just about everything can be answered in one (maybe two) direct messages.

DMs are easy. They’re quick. And no one feels short-changed because they already know that I’m not going to email them.

Also people now make their questions short and to the point, instead of the ten-page “here is my entire life story” sort of messages that I used to get back B.E.S. (Before Email Sabbatical).

God bless Twitter.

Surprise #6: It doesn’t matter anymore that I suck at saying “NO!”

I’ve talked about this in a gazillion posts, specifically the one that was actually titled
Saying no. Feeling awful about saying no.

But also here and here and some other places.

I’ve outed myself as someone who hates saying no so many times and asked for help with this so many times …. and it just doesn’t matter.

People will ask.

So what was happening was that I was getting way, way better at saying no, but at the same time way, way more people were asking.

So if all those people asked for something and I was brave enough to say no to almost all of them, it still sucked.

I’d say no to nine out of ten impossible requests but that one last request might take forty-five minutes or more. If that happened every day … you see my point.

Now I still can’t say no, but I don’t get the asks — Marissa filters them out. She has no problem saying no for me. I love her.

Surprise #7: Where’s all this time coming from?

This is the best part of the whole thing. By a lot.

But I have to tell you a tiny little story. I go to this wonderful woman Carolyn Winkler for PSYCH-K every couple of weeks.

It’s this wacky technique that uses muscle testing and wordishness to work on stuckified and limiting beliefs. I totally don’t get it but I love the hell out of it.

The first time I ever did PSYCH-K it was to work on my belief that I have to be invisible and no one is allowed to see me because it’s not safe for me to be seen. The next week I found out I was being quoted in Woman’s Day.

Love. It.

Anyway, a week before the Email Sabbatical, I did a session with Carolyn about time and — more specifically — me having it.

I told her I wanted two and a half hours in the afternoon to do whatever I want, but that I didn’t believe that would ever even be a remote possibility.

She did her stuff. I promptly forgot about it. Then I went on email sabbatical and a week later I was telling a friend how it’s so cool having all this time all of a sudden.

That giving up email had opened up two and a half hours in my day and now I get to go for a walk in the afternoon or study or sit at a cafe.

Then last week I was flipping through my journal and discovered the PSYCH-K session that I’d completely forgotten about. Two and a half hours. Every day. It’s incredible.

Bottom line?

This sabbatical might just be the best thing that ever happened to me. Actually I think it is.

Biggest regret? That I didn’t do it sooner.

Also, it’s weird to think about all the time I spent feeling resentful about what seemed (to me) to be people not respecting my time. Turned out that I was the one who didn’t respect my time.

Because as soon as I set boundaries for it, the respect was right there. Whoops. Sorry about that.

Are there hard parts? Sort of. I mean, sometimes you miss people. And sometimes you need a distraction and email isn’t there to give it to you.

I jump on my trampoline, go meditate, go for a walk, read Jenny the Bloggess or make a cup of tea. Or Twitter. There’s always Twitter. And there’s no way in hell I’m going on sabbatical from that so let’s never talk about that again.

I’ll see you there! Or here. Or at SXSW. Just not in my inbox. Really, it’s better for both of us that way.