Friday, June 14, 2013

Slow email

Previously I posted about slow science, modelled on slow cooking and other "social movements". Slow down, smell the roses, and enjoy life.

Here, I am proposing a "slow email" movement.
Unfortunately, there is nothing profound and particularly meaningful about it. But that is the point.

I am trying to look at email less often and when I do to respond more slowly. Surely once a day is enough.
This is motivated by a few observations, highlighted by living in the southern hemisphere.
Each morning I get a bunch of email which was received while I was sleeping and the northern hemisphere was working. Hence, my northern colleagues should never expect to receive a response in less than 24 hours. Furthermore, when I travel to the northern hemisphere I am sleeping while the whole working day passes in Australia. And you know what, the whole world does not fall apart! Furthermore, sometimes people solve their own problems by the end of the day.

Here are a few other reasons I think slow email is valuable.

Some fraction of email is stress inducing. It includes reminders of impending deadlines, complaints from people, frustrating edicts from administrators, .....

It is more efficient.
Receiving and scanning 20-50 messages together helps put them all in perspective and prioritise action or inaction.

It decreases the likelihood of firing back a harsh response to an email you don't like. If you sleep on it, you may decide it isn't worth the bother. Just let it go.

So, will you do it? can you do it?


  1. This very nice post reminded me of a scene I quite like from the film Il Postino, when the eponymous postman receives a letter from Neruda but doesn't open it immediately because, as he explains to the excited others, it's the first ever letter he's gotten in his life!

    I guess that's also a kind of excitement in slowness.

  2. Hi Vipin,

    Thanks for the comment.
    Actually it illustrates why we do keep looking at email. We are desperately hoping that there will be some exciting news we can enjoy. But experience shows there virtually never is. It is generally disappointing. Thus, we should do slow email. I see no excitement in this...