Offline is the new luxury (15)

Time spent on your smartphone: how could you pass it more wisely? And what exactly does it do for you? Each Friday, Irene, who together with Astrid is the founder of Flow, writes about this particular issue.

More and more often I find that my Inbox seems to be determining how my day pans out. By this I mean that I have something planned, but then put it off as I need to check my e-mails first. And that’s definitely wrong. Does anyone else recognize this? Before I know it, I’m picking up little things, reading vague mails and dragging e-mails into folders for a later date. All in all, it feels like I’m doing something useful, but in actual fact, I’m doing absolutely nothing.

Fortunately, according to Jocelyn K. Glei, this is all completely understandable and actually a ‘real disease’. On her website,, Jocelyn writes about work and creativity in these times of constant distraction, and she has also recently published a book called Unsubscribe – How to kill email anxiety, avoid distractions and get real work done, in which she describes in great detail how it all works. As soon as I had read the book’s title, I thought to myself, ‘Ah yes. E-mail anxiety. That’s what I have.’ Jocelyn explains, among other things, that e-mail works in a very addictive way, because there is always some kind of ‘rewarding mail’ sitting in between loads of meaningless ones; an e-mail that will cheer you up and leave you with a short-lived moment of happiness. For me, that would be the super sweet e-mail that occasionally comes in from someone somewhere in the world telling me that they read something inspiring in Flow, or that they found our foreword really beautiful and could really relate to it, or that we have touched/comforted/further helped them in some way with the magazine.

Just like an addict, I go in search of this kind of reward several times a day. And then I remember how it used to be: when I did not have e-mail and I was doing homework. When the clatter of the mailbox felt like a huge rush. You see, I had lots of pen pals, and my cousin and I would often write to each other, so whenever there was any kind of noise from the direction of the mailbox, I would go running. More often than not, it was just post for my parents—boring bills and the like. But that didn’t stop me checking! And—as the saying goes—a leopard can’t change its spots: what I did then, I still do now. With the exception that I’m no longer running to the mailbox once a day, I’m clicking on my Inbox all day long instead. I’m constantly tempted into the lair, and I’m constantly left feeling dissatisfied. For that reward only comes every now and then, and in the meantime I end up not doing what I had originally planned to do: Write a blog, article or foreword, for instance, or even put together a book.

Luckily, Jocelyn also has a solution to this. She suggests that you end each day by writing out a list of the things you want to do the next day. And that the crossing off of those things is your new reward system. I can imagine that would work. The thrill of a completed task is the same as the thrill of that one e-mail that brings such joy. It seems like a nice endeavor for this week. But get this: I’ve also just signed up for Jocelyn’s newsletter and so I’m looking forward to receiving e-mails from my new guru. Hmmm.

Unsubscribe – How to kill email anxiety, avoid distractions and get real work done by Jocelyn K. Glei (in English) is available in our (Dutch) webshop.


Illustration Isabelle Schippers