Unlearning email

The Why & How Of My Numptitude

Throughout my adult life I’ve visited my inbox in search of diversion, despite underwhelming—and often counterproductive— returns.

Variable reward’ shenanigans made me their bitch. This is silly.

Rather than another round of minor sanity tweaks to my shitty habits I smugly wrote the phrase “let’s get fundamental” at the top of a napkin* and considered how I might use the medium were I to start afresh.

*…before taking a moment to consider that sometime soon I’m going to have to seriously rethink my personality and stop being insufferable.

Bypassing fickle discipline I’ve smart-arsedly altered my tools to ensure that my past routines are either impossible or guaranteed to achieve nothing whatsoever.

Email How I did & How I do

Past behaviour / frequency

I’d check my email oh-god-so-many times a day; idly on the off-chance something interesting has arrived, obsessively when awaiting a reply regarding a thing.

New messages would occupy me, uselessly. Charming essays from friends became burdens until I replied; work notices nagged at me until I could do something about them.

To the best of my knowledge I never received an email requiring immediate attention.

Ideal behaviour

Discover pertinent new things when—and only when—I have the time and inclination to react meaningfully.

Necessary tangents

  1. I have a 4 / 5 hour focussed period most mornings. This is my preferred time to write the appallingly long, unforgivably-masturbatory dissertations I call personal correspondence.

  2. I have multiple Gmail accounts with which I interact through IMAP applications, either Mail (computers) or Inbox (phone). I’ve never used the actual online Gmail inboxes.

  3. Google allows users to write scripts that programmatically affect emails as they arrive (see: Google Apps Script).


[ As of 13 July 2017 : ] All emails entering my inbox are archived and given an IMAP-unsynchronized ‘Snooze’ label (meaning they never appear in the places I check email).

At 5am the next morning [ As of 29 July 2017, every Monday ] all emails with that label are automagically unarchived, de-labeled, and synchronized to the relevant places. That way I receive all emails from the previous day in one go and can receive no more that day*.

* Details of how to do that below.

A simple solutions to a tiny, self-inflicted fragment of idiocy.

Day-delay, Part 1 Google Apps Script Shenanigans

  1. Log in to Google Drive

  2. Hit the ‘New’ button ->More->+ Connect More Apps

  3. Search for and connect ‘Google Apps Script

  4. New->More->Google Apps Script

  5. Add—and save as whatever your heart desires—the following:

    function setup() {
    function moveSnoozes() {
      var snoozedLabel = GmailApp.getUserLabelByName( 'Snooze' );
      var page = snoozedLabel.getThreads();
      if( page.length > 0 ) {
        GmailApp.moveThreadsToInbox( page );
        snoozedLabel.removeFromThreads( page );
  6. Run-> setup, then give all the permissions. This will create a ‘Snooze’ label in your inbox.

  7. Edit->Current Project Triggers->No triggers set up. Click here to add one now.

  8. Settings { ‘Run’ | moveSnoozes; ‘Events’ | ‘Time Driven’, ‘Day timer’, ‘5am to 6am’. }

  9. Save.

NB // For a more flexible snooze function have a gander at https://gmail.googleblog.com/2011/07/gmail-snooze-with-apps-script.html.

Day-delay, Part 2 Google Filters

  1. Gear Icon ->Settings->Filters and Blocked Addresses->Create a new filter.’

  2. Filter { ‘To’ | MYEMAIL@gmail.com. } This affects *all* incoming mail (but won’t accidentally grab outgoing mail).

  3. Create filter with this search.’

  4. Tick: ‘Skip the Inbox (Archive It)’ and ‘Apply the label [SNOOZE].’

  5. Create filter.’

  6. Gear Icon ->Settings->Labels

  7. For ‘All Mail’ [in ‘System Labels’] and ‘Snooze’ [in ‘Labels’] untick the ‘Show in IMAP’ box and set all their options to ‘Hide