I’m probably a bit old-fashioned, but how can a reporter quitting email for a week be a news story? The piece I refer to is called What I Learned After Quitting Email For A Week and includes gems like these:
As a generally well-functioning workplace human, I found the first few hours to be problematic and uncomfortable. A phantom limb syndrome set in immediately — I felt vibrations on my phone from emails that would never come. Every 20 minutes I absent-mindedly clicked the Gmail bookmark on my browser only to be locked out. I felt uneasy, and disappointed at how uneasy I felt.
When I mentioned the experiment to friends and colleagues, they responded for the most part incredulously, the way a person might if you told them you didn’t believe in modern medicine.
Hmm. Not the world I live in. Those of you who have suffered from my slow email response times might suspect (quite correctly) that I quit email for a week every other month or so. Often this is because I simply don’t have web access – just as last week, when I went on an Amazon jungle adventure with four friends, six liters of rum, and a machete. Where there’s no electricity, no showers and no toilets, don’t expect great wi-fi coverage.
It’s probably all a matter of habit. I love email and use it as my main form of computer-based communication – but I’m simply not addicted to it. It surprised me to see I might be an exceptional case here, though.1
Temporary Quitting: The Inverted Cheat Day?
Thinking beyond email, I started to wonder: What are the things that I have quit temporarily at some point in my life? And what could be things that would be hard to quit, even for just a week?
A few successes come to mind: I once fasted for a week. I have quit alcohol, wheat, sugar, milk and other selected edibles for longer periods of time. While I couldn’t quit sleeping for a whole week, I did adopt a biphasic sleep schedule once when I lived in Berlin. I have spent weeks without telephones, computers, and the internet. Months without family and friends.
Temporary quitting is like a cheat day, turned on its head: Instead of allowing yourself a break when adapting a new habit, you challenge yourself to give an old one up, even if it’s just for a few days.
My thesis: Our ability to give up familiar things and ingrained habits is an indicator of a higher degree of personal freedom and sovereignty. It could hence be worth to get better at it.
The 1-Week Quitting Challenge
Here are a few challenges for me: A week without talking, reading or writing. A week without seeing another person. A week without music and noise. A week without light. Some of these might be tough, but I’m quite sure I could pull them off if I had to. But I probably won’t, because I just can’t see a benefit in many of them (the notable exception being talking).
What challenge comes to your mind, and why? Any recommendations? And what would be the hardest thing for you to quit for even just a week?
- Together with my weird friends, of course. [↩]