Quest For Noiselessness

Last modified on July 26th, 2011

I’ve been striving hard to reduce the amount of online “noise” in my life lately. Without setting any quantitative goals, I’ve been working relentlessly on removing distractions and trying to minimize interruptions.

Normally when I wake up I have around 50 messages waiting for me in my inbox. Many of them are automated – comment notifications from WordPress, Google+ messages, Facebook, etc, but they are still things I need to deal with, even if it’s just to identify that they belong in the trash.

Every email I receive and have to deal with probably notches my background stress level up slightly during the day. Without a doubt, on days where I don’t receive many emails or notifications, I tend to get a lot more done.

A few months ago I wrote a script to start sorting some of my email on the server using IMAP. The benefit of this is that once it’s done it automatically propagates to all my devices, since IMAP is server-based technology. That removed about 90% of the routine emails I get, which are often server, payment or code based notifications. But it still left about 10% to deal with.

For those I’ve been working on the following:

  • Reducing the frequency that Apple mail checks for mail
  • Unsubscribing from newsletters I rarely read (often I never asked to subscribe in the first place)
  • Switching from immediate notifications to digest notifications when possible
  • Turning off push notifications for non essential services
  • Leaving my phone in silent mode unless I’m expecting a call

I didn’t set out with a quantitative goal in mind, just that I wanted less distractions and noise on a daily basis. But ideally I’d like to start waking up with an inbox of zero, or at least a minimal amount of high priority items separated out. That implies at some level that I would be down to only a few personal emails a day, which is a pretty lofty goal, but one I think is obtainable for the most part.

4 responses to “Quest For Noiselessness”

  1. curtismchale says:

    I’ve been on a quest to do the same. I recently started automatically filing a few email list subscriptions so that I can read through them when I have the time. I also turned off all sounds and badges on my phone. It certainly does make for a better day.

    A great example to me of how much email stresses me out was last week when I moved my domain and screwed with my Mx records. I ended up not getting email for a week. I got lots done and was was happier. Now to figure out how to kill email all the time.

  2. Danny Dang says:

    Definetaly been a goal of mine as well. I’ve been trying to deal with emails a couple times of the day and actually delete, file, take action to the email and not let it just sit in the inbox… Having 1000+ emails in the inbox just adds to the stress level. Its another reason I have a love/hate relationship with Google Reader. I hate seeing 1000+ labels on some of the sites that I dont have time to read…

  3. Duane Storey says:

    I’m pretty good at keeping my inbox low, but only at the expense of being OCD about answering them sometimes, which adds to stress.

    I’m basically making a decision on every email I get. “Is this something I care about? Is there a way to remove it in the future?”

    I just purged most people in Google reader. I don’t have time to keep up with it all, and would rather just follow a handful of sites instead.

  4. paul says:

    i’m on the same path, documented here:

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