The 30-Day E-mail Detox
I've gotten a ton of e-mails saying it's so nice to have me back. The ridiculous thing is that these are from friends I'd been seeing in person all month long.
Some changes may definitely stick. I'm no longer multitasking. No talking on the phone while doing e-mail. I now stop to listen to people with full attention. I respond more thoughtfully, not reacting immediately to demands from coworkers or 4-year-olds. I continue to call actors when I have rehearsal changes. And something fun or interesting always comes out of our chats.
I've noticed that when I begin the morning by checking e-mail, I don't create anything worth a damn all day; by the time I've slogged through my in-box, I'm tapped out. So I've started doing all my writing and brainstorming before I even log on. I can't remember the last time I had so much creative energy.
Surprisingly, I'm a lot less hostile to e-mail than I was before. Having proved that I can ditch it if I want to, I'm now choosing to use it. I'm more appreciative of the ways in which it really is useful.
So many of us are addicted to doing and achieving. And e-mail plays into that ego-affirming drive; you can get a powerful sense of leading an army as you send out your marching orders.
An e-mail halt gives you the opportunity to examine that drive to do. Every spiritual practice encourages a period of stillness, whether it's prayer, a daily five-minute meditation, or ten days of silence. That retreat offers a way to get perspective on the habitual movement toward achieving. In stepping back, in single-tasking, you can hear the calm, still voice that speaks clearly. This is where you find peace, reprioritize, and rejuvenate creative energy.
Three years ago, I wrote my husband a note that I left on his keyboard: "No one on their deathbed ever wished they had spent more time on the computer." It was a way to help him let himself off the hook for not working 24 hours a day. I never imagined it would become his closing gesture at the end of every day to place that note back on his keyboard. And I never imagined I'd believe my own advice.
Katie Goodman's book, Improvisation for the Spirit: Live a Creative, Spontaneous and Courageous Life Using the Tools of Improv Comedy (Sourcebooks), was published in July 2008.