No need to reply

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.

watch, necklace, coffee, phone

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.

journal and laptop

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.

laptop

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.

p.s. – How to create work hours as a WAHM, 5 ways I stay sane online, and may we all be Mexican fishermen.

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20 Comments

  1. Missy June

    Yes, yes and yes! Most of my life takes place in the real world, so it is easy for me to put away screens and have little loss of productivity. But your tips for removing Facebook, spending time outdoors and simply waiting for intentional times to engage socially are keys to my own sanity. Thank you for keeping this at the forefront because it is so important.

    I especially like your idea to “Do it offline, if I can.” I think this is a great way to approach the way I train my children to interact. I love a handwritten journal, and encourage my children to journal each day (drawing or writing). The act of doing it, the practice of handwriting or print is calming and helps my little ones harness their buzzing thoughts. Thank you!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      Great thought, Missy. And a good reminder: if we want this for our kids, we need it in our life, too. We’re they’re most important models.

  2. Katherine

    I dropped off two meals for moms with new babies and made sure to add that I will politely decline their thank you notes- should they try to send them. Just enjoy the meal! No need to reply!

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      A beautiful idea, Katherine! What a great gift of freedom during a season of overwhelm.

  3. Suzie Lind

    This is so helpful and encouraging Tsh. Thank you! Looking forward to hearing more.

  4. Karla

    Thanks Tsh, for this blog entry!
    I would just like to know how to apply the ‘no need to reply’ practice to text messages without sounding like a high strung dictator. Your advice is greatly appreciated

    • Tsh Oxenreider

      I find an added emoji smile communicates the tone of my voice in texting when I’m afraid I might come across as angry or bossy. So, ‘No need to reply! ;)’

  5. Alysa Bajenaru

    I love this, Tsh! I actually have a post scheduled next week about how I am finding balance with social media. And I love how you admit to not being able to get it all done. That is a freeing thing!

  6. Meghan

    I thought I was the only one whose BFF was the Do Not Disturb button! I have it scheduled to come on automatically from 9pm to 7am. I also love Freedom – an app that shuts off internet access for a set period of time. Most of my work is onscreen but not online, so it’s invaluable to making the most of my work day. Love the other tips – I use many of them already, but I have slipped lately. Good reminders!

    • Meghan

      Also – sorry for such a long comment – I’ve been keeping a book of poetry and a book of short stories by my desk so I can pick one up when I start to head down the Internet-distraction spiral of email/Instagram/blogs. I am not great at it yet, but I’m trying!

  7. Rita

    How funny – just yesterday I received a text from a friend with the No Need To Reply at the end. I loved it. It’s kinda like something I learned to do when I go to a wake and fill in the guest book. I fill in our name in the guest book – so the family knows we came – but in the address portion I simply write “No card necessary”, so there is one less thank you card to write. Little things add up :o)
    Love your blog!

  8. Kate

    I wanted to pull out a useful quote from your post, my big takeaway for the day, but I’d have to copy and paste the whole thing. So, so good. So timely. So helpful for me in this season. My world has been filled with transition and chaos lately, thank you for reminding me that there are certain things that I CAN control, and that I should implement some changes in those areas that I am able to tweak. Many thanks!

  9. Carolyn

    I read this and it immediately resonated! I, also, have been simplifying emails, screen time, and making more time for what I really love. I downgraded to a basic phone. I have a tablet, a laptop, a GPS, how much do I need? My tiny phone fits in my tiny purse with just keys and basic cards. I want to control my life not have the outside world constantly trying to usurp control. I give no more than 30 min a day to screen stuff, and as an indulgence, if everyone in my life is doing something else, and I want to browse the web, then I’ll do what I’ve done here, read someone new and reach out to connect. Life for me is about making real connections, and screens are a limited way to do that.

  10. Oceana

    Ugh, I hear you. I work online as well and it’s hard to disconnect from both work and social media. This is particularly true for me as I use social media to connect with my employer (I work remotely). I had an internet break a few weeks ago and it was lovely. Let’s be honest, I LOVE the internet, but I can definitely see the benefit of more effective use, and less scrolling for nothing but scrolling! I also like that ‘no need to reply’ concept, I might try it myself 🙂

  11. Prerna

    YESSSS to all of this!! Except removing FB from my phone.. LOL!! I keep thinking about it but it’s one of those scary actions {like trying Vegemite!} that I keep pushing away… Maybe dwelling on your post will help me over the edge 😉

    One of the things I’ve done is shut off notifications for Watsapp groups.. I check in on them once a day and reply/comment.

    The other thing I’ve done is restrict email work to 3 defined time slots and I power through them and then, like you said “Shut the screen” 😉 I’m also getting REALLY good with checking in on Facebook AFTER I’m done eating my “frogs” for that session 🙂

    I’m totally going to swipe your idea about using No Need to Reply in my emails too… Thank you SO much for it.. And now I need to find the Do No Disturb moon on my phone too…

  12. Theresa

    Great idea about adding, no need to reply. I am anxious to try it. Also reading before bed, is one of my best friends. Great thoughts and list.

  13. Elle

    I’ve been doing this for years. All for the intents you wrote about. It’s freeing. Sometimes you gotta get the stuff out of your head (or heart) and let it float and land wherever it ends up.

  14. Anna

    I find that limiting screen time is one of the best time management tools, too. Since I live where the internet and phones are spotty, I get unplanned breaks. I’m also trying to leave my computer off on Sundays and after 7pm. I’ve done well with the Sundays, hit and miss with the evenings. I have my phone on so that anything urgent will still get through, but I don’t like looking at the little screen very much, so I’m unlikely to lose lots of time that way.

  15. Chrystal

    I’ll be using the No Need To Reply on future emails. This is amazing! And I love many of your other ideas. I have wanted to start a bullet journal, so next week I plan to sit down and get on with it. I think I’ll had to adopt some of these tips into my daily life. 🙂

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