(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY In the smartphone era, email is constant. You may not intend to check in on things, but you bring your cell phone to your 10-year-old's soccer game so you can reach your teen who's at home if you need to. Next thing you know, you're checking email from the sidelines, just because email and phone calls come on the same device. Most likely there's nothing urgent. But the sheer act of scrolling through your messages makes you feel tethered to your inbox.
That's not a relaxing feeling. And so, while my family was on vacation two weeks ago at Disney World, I decided to fight that tethering. I simply didn't bring my phone with me to the parks most days (I checked messages at night from our hotel room). This was incredibly inconvenient from a family logistics perspective. We had to arrange to meet at certain points at certain times -- guessing that if a line was 20 minutes long it was logical to meet in half an hour near the exit and (this is key) not wandering off just because the urge would strike.
But I realized, as I would sit, waiting patiently for the folks who'd gone on some ride or another, that I used to live my entire life this way. In college, friends and I would make actual plans. Meet at this party at 10 p.m. Let's have dinner at 8 p.m.
How 1999, right? But somehow we survived. I made it through my first jobs with no cellphone and without the ability to check email on the fly. Indeed, I recall from my babysitting days that parents used to leave me the phone number of the restaurant or movie theater they were frequenting, and then simply enjoyed themselves, knowing I'd only call if it was worth dragging them out of the darkened theater to the manager's phone. How different from these days, when I check my texts in the middle of date night.
Though we often forget this, we don't need to be reachable all the time. This is true even if we have kids, and even if we're trying to meet people later on. The fact that your cellphone and email come on one device doesn't mean you need to have access to either.
So here's the challenge: Can you go email free -- and potentially phone free -- this weekend? Try 48 hours, from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 p.m. Sunday. Chances are there will only be a few messages worth dealing with on Sunday evening. But you'll feel a lot more relaxed and more aware of the non-electronic world. Who knows, you might actually pay attention to what's happening on that soccer field, rather than spending that time deleting emails from Land's End.
What's the longest you've gone email free?Photo courtesy of Flickr user bob.