Like you, I spend a lot of time thinking about how to be more mindful in my interactions with others. I also practice mindfulness when I meditate, and I'm mindful about what and when I eat. It was only recently that I started thinking about how to apply this to the digital world.
All too often, I send emails and texts from my smartphone amidst a flurry of other activities, at all times of day and even when I'm in front of the television. I even find myself replying to emails as I'm standing in line at the grocery store. In these moments, I convince myself that I am being efficient and multi-tasking, but the truth is that I am not being very mindful at all! I'm not giving the person attached to the email or the text the attention that he or she deserves.
Now even though I've chosen to step away from corporate America and re-invent myself, I still have to manage life in the digital age and spend a lot of time on my computer sending and responding to email.
I think that for me, "mindful email" is about the connection with the person to whom the email is being directed to, while also being mindful about the content itself. Before you send that email, try asking yourself, "Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?" But at the same time, we ought to be aware that not everyone is going to do the same for us.
And rather than getting frustrated, irritated, angry, or hurt by an email, we can consider how to be kind in our response and temper our emotional reaction. We should try to remind ourselves that we never fully know the pain or experience of another person, even those who we care about deeply.
The practice of sending mindful email is no different than practicing mindfulness in our real-life interactions.
There are many strategies, tools and techniques available to managing email better, but what I feel is really missing is mindfulness.
Here are five easy steps to practicing mindful emailing:
- Take a deep breath, or give yourself a few moments to collect your thoughts before you hit reply.
- Visualize the person to whom you are sending the email.
- Get clear on why you are sending the email.
- Ask yourself if it is a true, necessary and kind response, and if email is the best way to deliver the message.
- Shut down your email when you are involved in other activities, whether it is talking to your significant other, eating, talking on the phone, or just being in the moment, and always two hours before you go to bed for a better night's rest.
On most days I have no interest in going "off the grid" and there is much about the connectivity of email that I thoroughly enjoy. I like that I can take the time to respond to someone when I want to, and that I can be thoughtful in my replies. Whereas sometimes over the phone, I offer my first thought rather than my best thought.
Not to mention, as someone with horrible handwriting, I prefer the ease of typing my correspondence, and I love how easy it is to keep up with friends and colleagues all over the world.
Every day, I'm continuing to embrace the challenge of being more mindful with my email ... are you interested in joining me on this journey?