I don’t know about you, but when it comes to this upcoming Thanksgiving break, I’m comin’ in hot. So instead of writing something new today, I’m going to re-post something I wrote last Thanksgiving (even though it’s a little outdated). And no, it’s not about being grateful. Happy Thanksgiving and Native American Heritage Day!

Every year, about a month before Thanksgiving, my real estate agent reaches out to offer free pie to all of his clients. It’s such a clever way to remind his clients that he exists for their–and their friends’–home-buying or selling needs.

We get an email wishing us a Happy Thanksgiving, thanking us for our business, and requesting that we respond to the email with our choice of apple, pecan, or pumpkin by a certain date. I respond every year. One year, I even got two. (Thanks, Andrew!)

This year, as in years past, I’ve been excited to see that email arrive in my inbox. But this year, unlike in years past, I did not respond right away. In fact, I didn’t even think about it again until the deadline was history.

No free pie for me!

It was a wake-up call to the fact that I let a good habit slip: I used to answer emails as they came in (if possible). But lately, I’ve opened my emails and not responded right away, even if I had the time and tools to do so.

While I’m not sure when it started, I think I know why it started.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you might know that I am a huge proponent of the separation of work and home. When I was at Counter Tools, I made it a point not to respond to or send any emails after-hours, on weekends, or when I was out of the office. I knew that I was setting the tone for my team, so if I responded to emails during off-hours, they might feel like they had to, too. And I really didn’t want to create the kind of culture where everyone felt like they had to be “on” all the time. I wanted them to have personal lives and passions outside of work. So even though I often read emails outside of work time, I would not respond to them; and if I did, I would schedule them for during work hours (stealth pro-tip there).

And I think that’s the kicker: now that I work for myself, I’m not worried about setting an example for my teammates. I can respond to emails whenever I want! But since I still very much believe in separating work and home, “whenever I want” is during the time that I’ve designated for working. Unfortunately, opening an email on my phone while I’m not officially working means that it gets marked as read and doesn’t scream “DEAL WITH ME” when I open my inbox when I buckle down later.

So what’s the solution? I need to try some things on for size. Like:

  • Not reading emails when I’m not working
  • Figuring out how to mark emails as unread when I’m on my phone
  • Responding right away, if I can, no matter what

I think adopting a combination of the above is what it’s going to take to mend this broken habit. Any other ideas or similar experiences?

Oh, and happy Thanksgiving! I hope you eat all the pie you want.

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