A few years ago, I noticed my friend Sarah would end some of her emails with “No need to reply!” A simple sentence, breezy really, that packed a boxing gloves-punch: everything I just said, you don’t need to respond to with yet another email.
When Sarah and I later talked about this in person, she told me she started adding it to the end of her emails when someone first wrote it to her, and it gave her the surprising freedom to read, take in the information, then move on with her day. It was a gift of added lightness.
“No need to reply” acknowledges to the recipient that the email you’re sending is necessary mental content, and it’s most likely one of many emails in her inbox—but you’re letting her off the hook from doing anything more than reading and archiving, or perhaps jotting a little something on her calendar or to-do list.
It tells this person, “I know you’re teetering on the brink of content overload and to-do list overwhelm—just like me—but you don’t have to add even a simple ‘Thanks – got it!’ or ‘Will do!’ to your mental to-do list. I just needed to pass on this information. You’re free to move on with your day.”
I love adding this to my emails now—I feel like it’s tossing a surprise daisy on someone’s desk, or passing out a free cup of coffee. Sure, it can’t happen with every email, but it’s more appropriate than I initially imagined. It really does work most of the time.
My next few essays here on AoS are going to explore the time-honored ritual of time management: making the most of the 24 hours a day, 168 hours a week that we’re all allotted, and how we have more say in those hours than we think.
I’m like you: dangerously close to busy. But I hate, hate, hate being in a perpetual state of busyness, and I fight tooth and nail against this temptation.
Decreasing online, increasing online
I work online, mostly, so it’s easy to spend far too many of those 24 daily hours staring at a screen. I’ve learned the hard way its health drawbacks—mentally, creatively, relationally, physically. My month-long internet break this summer smacked me upside-down with how much healthier I felt. I even felt more creative and energized about that very same online work that was dragging me down.
The lure of screen time (even in the name of productivity) was a villain in my heroic quest to live well. I needed to curtail its powers. The only way I surmised to do this was take a clean break for a chunk of time, then gradually add it back in, with the end goal of better health and restored creativity.
Adding “no need to reply” to my emails is one way I cut my screen time—because really, it’s a gift for me, too. I’m giving myself the freedom to cross this email conversation off my list and move on with my life, too.
Other ways I figuratively add “no need to reply” to my online life:
• I removed Facebook from my phone awhile ago. This means I only get on when I’m at my laptop, which, for me, is more intentional. No mindless scrolling for no reason.
• If I can do it offline, I do. I journal, brainstorm, flesh out my work first on paper. I’m back to using my bullet journal, too (I took a break during the summer).
• I don’t keep my email tab open. I used to do this, and it was a terrible detriment to productivity. I treated my inbox like my to-do list, instead of what it really is: other people’s agenda for my time (hence the reason I love gifting people with my favorite sentence).
• I don’t get on social media or check my inboxes until I’ve done my daily ‘big rock’ work goals. I don’t check Instagram until I’ve drafted a post, for example, or I don’t get on Voxer until I’ve worked on updates for my course.
• The Do Not Disturb button is my BFF. If I click that little moon on my phone during work time, I stay focused.
• Daily outside time. Even if it’s just a walk around the block, I know I’ve had too much screen time if I can’t remember the last time I saw the sky.
• I save evening Netflix binging for the weekends. I sleep a million times better when I read a book before sleep instead of stare at a screen. Big difference for me, actually.
• I just…. close the screen. I admit that I won’t get done everything I’d like to get done, because I’m a human with 24 hours to her day. And I’d like to spend two-thirds of that not working. And that’s a perfectly legitimate goal.
Ruthlessly curbing my screen time is possibly my favorite time-management tool, because it comes with the delicious side effect of better overall wellness, less stress, deeper offline relationships, and a healthier disposition on life. For me, it’s a no-lose situation.