Let’s face it: Email is a drag. 

Whatever shine unsolicited links and messages once had back in the early days of the internet is long gone. Today, the contents of your inbox are likely closely aligned with that of your cellphone’s voicemail — unwanted and unchecked. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s within your power to functionally give up email. It is surprisingly easy, and feels so, so good.  

First off, let’s all agree that writing and replying to emails is a pain. Even the companies that provide the service know it’s unbearably tedious. Google has tried to make things less burdensome on the senders’ end with Gmail’s Smart Reply and Smart Compose features, and on the receivers’ end with Nudges, but those are just annoying Band-Aids on the festering wound of obligation.  

No new feature can solve the underlying problem of email itself, which is that it exists as a giant to-do list created by other people that’s forever hanging over your head. Some might try to combat this by reaching so-called inbox zero, but that’s just playing your digital taskmasters’ game. 

It is not your obligation or responsibility to make yourself available in the manner that best suits others. 

Don’t do it. 

If you follow a few basic guidelines, mostly opting out is easy. 

You may not have the option of ditching email in your professional life (bummer), but your personal life is hopefully all yours. So let’s focus on that. 

Your first step should be acknowledging the few places where, unfortunately, you need to keep email. Think about when you purchase plane tickets or need to reset an online account’s password. Email here is key. 

But don’t let the fact that you every now and then need to have an email address get you down. 

Remember, you don’t need to open your email except in the few specific situations where you want to — say, for example, when you’re checking into that flight to Hawaii. 

But what about all the other reasons to use email, like paying bills? Unless you’re somehow paying bills directly via email, you don’t really need an email account. Cell phone bills can be paid automatically, and your power and water bills are likely due on the same day each month. Set a calendar reminder on your phone and pay them online like you would anyway. 

Simple. 

That brings us to the slightly stickier issue of other people. There are two approaches here: The auto reply or the email signature. If you just want to wash your hands of the entire thing, consider setting up an auto response that goes something like this: “This email address is no longer in use. Please get in touch by other means. If the matter is urgent, text or call me.”

This accomplishes several things at once. First, it lets the person who emailed you know that you will not see their message. Second, it pushes the person to other channels of communication that are not email. Do you frequently text, exchange phone calls, or Signal with the person? Well then, they can just hit you up that way. 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it acts as a de facto filter. If the sender has no other way of getting hold of you other than email — they don’t know your cell number, Twitter handle, mailing address, landline, whatever — then maybe they’re not that close to you in the first place. And hell, if it’s really important, they’ll figure it out. 

However, if you can’t fathom walking away from your inbox altogether, you can still reduce its power over you by checking it less frequently. Like, a lot less. Try once a week (at most). This is where the email signature comes in. 

Create an email signature that lets the recipient of your response (because you should never be initiating email chains) know the account is checked super infrequently, and that if the matter is urgent they should text or call you. Again, do not put your phone number in the email signature. If they don’t have your phone number? Well, whatever. There’s a little thing called the White Pages. 

It is not your obligation or responsibility to make yourself available in the manner that best suits others. If people need to contact you, they will — email or no. 

From phones, to Facebook, to Twitter DMs, to Slack, we are already overloaded with communication channels. Cutting one loose won’t break your life. In fact, it might just significantly improve it. 

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