When was the last time you checked your phone while talking to a loved one? That you went to bed hours later than you should because you were trying to get to inbox zero? That you didn’t do something you said you would because you spent all your time on social media? All three happened to me during the last weeks. Multiple times, if I’m honest. Despite knowing I shouldn’t, despite knowing that it will make me feel bad about myself.
But I’ve found a solution. I now ask myself: Am I really that important? And the answer is no.
Are people really contacting me so frequently that I can’t ignore my phone for half an hour? No. Even if they were: are their requests and problems more important than the person I am talking to? No.
Are the emails I receive so urgent that I need to sacrifice my sleep? Can’t they wait a day or two? Even if the sender says they need an answer ASAP, shouldn’t they be sleeping, too? No, yes, and yes.
Is everything on social media a message for me personally that I need to see and acknowledge? No.
At first, it is odd to say to oneself “I am not important.” But it is easier than saying “This text/email/post is not important.” Because usually I know that I don’t need to reply right away/tonight/ever. But that doesn’t stop me from catching up on everything that happened on Facebook in the last 24 hours when I was meant to be doing yoga. I’d also claim that yoga is more important to me than Facebook, but on some days, you’d conclude the reverse from looking at my time management. Asking “Is this important?” obviously didn’t work.
“Am I that important?” is akin to asking “Is my contribution to this absolutely crucial? Does it have to be instantaneous for the world to keep spinning?” It helps me see the ridiculousness of inbox zero – sure, I’d feel accomplished. But who emails me is not in my control. What if I get an email the second I open the last unread one? And another a second after I’ve dealt with the newest arrival? It’s a potential hamster wheel.
The key is being honest with myself. While I am very important to my family and close friends, I’m not that important to every single person who emails or texts me – think about how many emails you get from people you don’t even know. Not everyone can care deeply about what I think or do. It’s a fact of life. Thus, I can let some time pass until I hit reply.
I’m going to take some time today and over the holidays to let email be email and life be life. Meanwhile, I’m going to have coffee with friends, read books, cuddle with my boyfriend, write, and do yoga. Savoring the holiday season while connecting in the old-fashioned sense. I hope you’ll join me. Because seriously: what is the worst that can happen while we unplug? Chances are, if there’s a true emergency, we’re not going to be able to help via email. That’s what 911 is for.