New 30 day challenge: No sending email after 9 p.m.

Last month (June 2012), my 30 day challenge was to try to eat mindfully (eat more slowly, don’t eat while distracted by TV or web browsing, chew more, stop eating when I’m full, etc.). It turns out that eating mindfully is hard. I’m the sort of person that eats whatever is on my plate, so a couple tricks that worked for me were to 1) get smaller plates and utensils, and 2) don’t put a serving of food on your plate unless you know you want it.

My 30 day challenge this month (July 2012) is “Don’t send any emails after 9 p.m.” Email is the part of my life that is most out of control, so it’s worth trying a few approaches to tackle it. I thought about doing something like “Only send 25 emails a day” but time tracking is much easier. You can help by not sending me any emails this month. :)

By the way, if you’re wondering about this whole “30 day challenge” thing, you can watch my TED talk about it:

46 Responses to New 30 day challenge: No sending email after 9 p.m. (Leave a comment)

  1. Raviraj

    That’s a tough challenge …

    No E-mails after 9 pm.

  2. I really enjoyed that talk and it would be interested if you shared more of your 30-day challenges.

  3. This is an interesting one Matt. It doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult, but it’s something I do everyday. Good on you for exploring this 30 day challenge.

  4. Eating mindfully & not sending email after 9:00pm are two different things. I suspect about the second one. Btw, you said after 9:00pm, but when will you send email next day?

    Hope to get update next month about your ‘no email after 9:00pm’. But Matt, it’s a more difficult task than eating. ;)

  5. A photo a day seems like a good challenge. Or a blog post a day. 30,000 words is more than enough for me.

  6. I generally go to sleep around 9 PM, so following your challenge would be pretty easy :.)

  7. Yay 30 days challenge are back. I am starting my own, got inspired to go some time without sugar.

  8. Matt-What a great challenge. I think we are definitely all really extremely attached to our emails, and taking a break from it is really rewarding. What I love about riding my bike to work is that I don’t even have a chance for that hour to reach for my phone…it’s very freeing. It’s the same type of freedom, I feel when I sit in an acting class and have to turn off my phone for for hours or when I just leave my phone behind for a trip to the grocery store. Great challenge. Looking forward to how it goes!
    Best,
    The Hobby Hoarder

  9. Jack

    Hey Matt,

    Long time reader with a quick Q – sure you get this type of question often so I hope it doesn’t come across as rude (it’s not meant to): I can see the value in a lot of your 30 day challenges; exercising discipline until it becomes habit. But for this one… do you really need arbitrary constraints? Surely just a little moderation, a little setting of expectations in regards to replies should do the trick?

    Jack

  10. hahaha very nice. what’s next, checking it once a week? is that even possible for you? I did that some time back and productivity just went through the roof!

    with food, have you tried small snacking throughout the day instead of sitting down for big meals 3 x a day?

  11. This is a good habit, but I don’t see it as a challenge. It might be cheating, but I stopped sending/replying to email after 7pm. I still read the message, and I still type the response. I just hold all of that traffic until 7am the following morning.

    I found this greatly reduces the incoming traffic in the late evening hours, as the other side is waiting for my responses.

    I also no longer send email on Saturdays, with rare exceptions.

    I am toying with a “no web/social” rule for 10pm, but I haven’t been able to make it stick just yet.

  12. I’m a big shortcut menu user on Chrome. I took and buried my email under a folder named “Do you really need to check email now?” and a sub-menu called “really?” … that little reminder actually helps.

  13. Great challenge! Checking email at all time during the day and night, is almost a way of life for me. This is a challenge that will be very difficult for me, but if I am able to accomplish it, it will be life changing. :)

  14. Its impossible to stop sending mails after 9pm.. Because we reply most of our mails at late nights. And for a busy person like Matt, its very much a tough job to handle. Even i will make a challenge of not sending mails after 11pm. Because 9pm is too early for me to stop replying to people :)

  15. What a coincidence. I had decided to do the same things too. Eat mindfully and… :)

  16. Liked the video and the challenge. I am going to start doing these too. I like the idea of savoring the moment. Seems like life goes by too quickly and I have months that I just get up go to work watch a little tv and go to bed. Thats exsisting not living. Thanks for the inspiration Matt!

  17. Good luck with your new challenge, hopefully also in the presence of this challenge you to be better quality sleep.

  18. But sometimes you have to send email urgently than it will be difficult to accept challenge. I send above 30 emails per day as I have to deal with my clients

  19. I am going to try this to reduce my smoking habit-not eradicate but perhaps halve my consumption for the 1st 30 days.
    Then I will be in a strong place to quit altogether (hopefully).

    But reducing for 30 days seems more manageable than cutting out entirely..

  20. I must admit this would be a real challenge for me given that checking my emails is usually the first thing I do when I wake up and the last thing I do when I go to sleep! Possibly not healthy so maybe a cut off point would do me good! I’ll give it a go!

  21. Milos

    I need some scheduler in Gmail, I want to write email after 9pm, but I don’t want it to be sent before morning, and if I just put it in drafts I will forget about it. Forward to Gmail team please :)

  22. I recently turned my emails off my phone and it’s bliss – I would highly recommend this to anyone who emails a lot, or turn them off at the weekend at least

  23. Lisa

    Hi Matt,
    This is a great reminder of how much email controls me rather than the other way around.
    While I don’t typically send emails after 9pm, I often read them. Reading business emails is definitely not something I should be doing before going to bed – especially if I want to get a good night’s sleep.
    I’m going to follow along with you on this and clean up my email habits.
    Thanks!

  24. Stopping at 9 PM seems reasonable.
    Stop waking up earlier, the next morning, should be your next month challenge…

  25. Wow. That’s a good idea for a busy guys like you, Matt :)

    Try to eat mindfully is a really good idea too, I’ve tried it too, but not so often. BTW, I’ve watched your TED – 30 Day Challenge video many times. I got some energy to do it too, perhaps I would like to try not to tweet or not to sign in Facebook.

    Ouch, it would be little bit hard for me. :D

  26. Hi Matt,

    just found this post by chance. Actually we are in the middle of creating an app that will help you go from 0 to 100 in building a habit very fast. It’s called sugar habits and it will actually do something like your 30 days challenge, but based on empirical data about how to best change your behavior. Maybe you like it.

    Thanks for making the world a better place (fighting spam and stuff)!

    Martin

  27. Hi Matt, a good solution to giving up emails at 9pm is waking up at 3 am to finish off those unfinished emails. ;-) I am not an evening person either.. but i am surely a morning person! skype me. I’ll be up at 3am , too.

  28. I think it would be more of a challenge if you didn’t read any email after 9pm either. I’ll be interested to read your follow up and to see if you found yourself cramming in those last posts up until 8:59pm. Good Luck, Matt. I’m still taking on that one book a month thingy. Or was it a week?

  29. It is admirable and inspirational that you are moving your life into new directions and taking control with a 30 day challenge each time. I would like to suggest however that ‘not sending emails’ after a certain time really doesn’t change anything unless you are disconnecting – not reading emails and not texting, etc. But what ever works for you – that’s what counts. Thanks for sharing your challenges and encouraging others.

  30. And yet the challenged way sounds cool…:)

    Aspired to take some more challenges by myself, and all the best to U too fr this month’s challenge…!!

  31. I can stop sending them, but man I’ve got to read them!

  32. If everyone tackled small, sustainable changes like this to try to achieve their dreams, goals or aspirations, I dare to think that the world might be a better place. Email is so hard to ignore, just setting a limit for the evening can help place boundaries.

  33. Eating mindfully is the best 30 day challenge ever! I encourage everyone to do this.

    Here are some studies to help you if you want to try this 30 day challenge with lots of tips on how to break habits to keep that goal:
    foodpsychology.cornell.edu – This is by far my favorit article (smaller plates, bowls and utensils is on the list)

    why we wolf down junk – love this article about breaking junk food habits

    “evidence of an automatic,
    direct causal link between food advertising and greater
    snack consumption, and further contradict industry claims that
    advertising affects only brand preferences and not overall nutrition”

    Good luck on your new challenge of not sending any emails after 9 p.m. That is a whole other beast.

  34. I’ve been influenced by your Ted talk about a year ago. With this 30 day challenge my life has improved constantly.
    Thanks,
    Mike

  35. Thanks Matt. Your challenges are always inspirational. I might take up this challenge as well as I was just talking with my wife about answering client e-mails after 9 PM. I run a small business and sometimes I think by working on a laptop at home that there are not business hours when there really are.

  36. This challenge is good in changing bad habits to good habits or develop a new good habits. I would like to apply this technique.

  37. When you are a busy man the universe demands your attention.

  38. The no emails after 9PM would be pretty easy for me, normally nothing is that important via email that it cant wait until the next day.

  39. Maybe it’s an idea to only check your mail once a day or do it at all. I know it’s difficult. I already gave my smartphone and tablet to my wife… doing things the oldschool way… an old nokia is my friend. Less stressful.. and it keeps your focus on the things that matter. To much information and questions nowadays…

  40. Darrell

    I want to take this opportunity and thank you Matt because the organic results just got better today. Seriously, I now have to look at 2 sets of block ads that each has 3 listings on the top of the page. I can still see 2 organic listings.

    Can you please add a 3rd block of ads to totally eliminate those silly organic listings. I for one value all those paid ads on top and the side bar. I actually click them sometimes (oh wait – I’m going to click them each and every time from now on). Just because I like to see what they are about. Oops, that means that company had to pay for my click.

    Since, that is what you are showing and believe are the best results, who am I to question the integrity of G….I am just a small cog in the vast internet and I’m obliged to click those ads all the time because again, this is what Google deems the most valuable and heck, I can’t argue with you because you are only interested in giving the best results. I really liked those tabs too on top that have links to my search queries from youtube, facebook, twitter

    What’s really cool, is when I click those buttons, I get more listings of stuff, which means you know what – the organic listings are totally gone from above the fold.

    If you guys ad even more paid listing, I am sure with some effort, you could totally eliminate organic listings from the first page and focus purely on paid listings. After all, I’m sure most people would agree, Google only wants to deliver the best results for their customers. Oops, I mean their paid customers.

    Sincerely, I do hope you have a great summer dude…

  41. Okay Matt if it’s good enough for you, well then it’s good enough for me. “phew”! I got in just under the wire didn’t I? It’s 8:49 pm EST in N.Y.

  42. Thinking while eating seems quite hard, but not sending emails after 9pm can be hard as well, especially if you already read the mail, and you know what to answer but you’ll have to wait :p I think you shouldn’t read the mails then after 9pm as well, it will make it easier ;-)

  43. I used the 30 day challenge to finish a small project I was working on. I allocated 1 hour every day for 30 days and finally got my project live. My project was a Twitter powered gumball machine (http://www.tweetatweat.com). Thanks for the motivation Matt.

  44. Being a female, running a business, and being a mother of two small boys age 5-and 6 has taught me to learn when to cut back. As my children have gotten older I have had to learn when to work, and when to be a mom.

    When my kids were old enough to walk I decided that work was from 7am-4pm, mom time was 4- bed time (which varies) then emails.

    I have stuck by this cycle and it has worked. Although some times it can be hard to do..

  45. Hey Matt,

    Hmmm man, I don’t know what the heck is up with these challenges but there is definitely SOMETHING about 30 day challenges that really can change our way of functioning.

    So glad you’re making these work for you man and one last thing about this, the moment you make these 30-day challenges public, you can keep yourself accountable a lot easier!

    Found out about it from experience. ;-)

    Sergio

    PS. Are you still running half-marathons in Cali?

  46. Matt your funny. I will watch the TED Talks and give you some honest feedback. I won’t sugar coat it.

    Anyhow new 30 day challenge

    Drive a different coworkers car each day!

    That would be hilarious….from Nissan Leaf to Fisker Karma?

    oh yeah!

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