This is it. Was it. My last week in Catherine's tutelage. It wasn't a great week, phone-wise. The NCAA Tournament was a meltdown of epic proportions, with upsets every day, and I couldn't help but hit refresh on the ESPN website (but not the app; I learned that buzz-filled lesson long ago) a couple times an hour for score updates. We even had the tournament here in Wichita, complete with artisanal basketball folk art:
For Day 25, she told me to Clean Up the Rest of my Digital Life. Step one: unsubscribe from email lists that don't interest me. I actually did this a few years ago. I was prompted to do it by my former employer's excessive institutional email habits. The university collectively never met an email it didn't like. Need safety training? Email. Leftovers from Grand Rounds available? Email. But Catherine's reminder was a good way to re-examine my inbox and hit the delete button on the bottom of a few emails. It felt good, like electronic spring cleaning.
Step two was to save myself from the tyranny of my inbox. As an aside, I've seen screenshots of people's unread email badges, and I don't know how they sleep at night:
Catherine recommended apps to help me prioritize email senders, but I feel like I do this pretty well already, and after my less-than-great experiences with Freedom and Moment, I'm not excited about adding new software. So instead, I decided to set a 6 pm hard stop on email checking. It's not hard to do, since I don't have an email alert on my phone, and the little red badge doesn't show up when I have an unread email.
Next was a suggestion to use folders to keep myself sane. Catherine had some very specific advice in this regard. One piece was to make a "needs response" folder. But that's what I use my inbox for. Anything still sitting in there is unresolved. I move resolved emails that I want to keep to topic-specific folders and keep a to-do list on Wunderlist (with alerts/notifications turned off, natch). So I didn't change anything.
Then Catherine recommended setting up a "commerce" email for the Amazons and Zappos of the world, so that those emails wouldn't come to my main address. Nope. I actually like getting shipping updates from those companies in my inbox, and I fastidiously unsubscribe to any lists that don't deal with those. I'm not interested in sales, because I rarely buy anything that I don't need pretty quickly.
She followed this advice with instructions to set up a VIP list on my phone and email so that I'm sure to get emails from important people. Good idea, and done.
Next I was instructed to set up a "Justin_Important" email to alert people who emailed me on vacation that if it was really important, they could send an email to the "Justin_Important" address and I would get back to them. But honestly, it seemed impersonal, and I'd rather have some email pile up while I'm on vacation than put people off. Maybe that makes me soft. So I didn't do it, but I will continue to use auto-respond emails when I'm out of town to let people know I'm not immediately available.
Catherine gave me some instructions to use for social media, but I was like, "What? I haven't had a social media app on this phone for years. Get outta here."
We're in the home stretch (Day 25 was labor-intensive). Catherine told me to activate drive mode for my phone, which I did with the last big iOS update and which I love. Then she told me to unlink accounts I might be using for log-ins. I don't have many (or any) of these, but if I did, the recent Cambridge Analytica mess would've scared me off them a lot faster and harder than Catherine ever could.
Day 26 was my day to Check My Checking. What Catherine means is, when I reach for my phone, I'm supposed to ask myself, "What's the best thing that could happen? What's the likelihood of this?" The idea is that mindlessly checking my phone has a much higher risk of making me sad than of making me happy. It's a good strategy, and it reminded me to stop mindlessly clicking through the news websites whose bookmarks I deleted a couple weeks ago, but whose URLs I still have locked in. Day 26 reminded me of one of my college roommates who is now a college professor. He publishes a lot, and the work and focus required to do this makes his mornings pretty valuable. So he has a rule to never check his email before 12 pm, because there is a very high chance of there being something in his inbox that will ruin his day.
Day 27, Catherine reminded me to perform some Digital Sabbath Life Hacks. That is, come up with some ways to separate myself from my phone periodically. I can't do a day a week like she suggests, or probably even a day a month. My income is just too tightly bound to phone availability, probably like many of yours. But I tried three-hour breaks, and I liked it. Catherine took Day 28 to remind me of The Seven Phone Habits of Highly Effective People, which was a nice review of the strategies we'd gone through in the last few weeks.
Day 29, Catherine told me to set a monthly reminder to evaluate my phone usage. Wunderlist to the rescue: