The Airplane Mode Email Technique
6 min read

The Airplane Mode Email Technique

Issue #57: Inbox Management, Living Close to Home, The Subtle Way to Waste Your Life, Tolkien's Paintings, Remote Work Evangelism, and more.
The Airplane Mode Email Technique

Dear steward,

I have a confession to make: I’m awful at emailing people back.

To be fair, I’m usually good with replying to short messages. But anything that requires a more thoughtful response puts me into a procrastinator’s tailspin.

I keep telling myself, “I’ll have time to write a more thorough reply tomorrow.” But there’s never more time tomorrow. So I keep putting it off. And before I know it, it’s been a week, and I still haven’t replied.

What’s worse is even when I deliberately set aside time to respond to emails, I constantly find myself being distracted. Sometimes it’s social media or other work that distracts me, but more often than not, other emails come that disrupts me from the task at hand.

More than once, I’ve pictured that famous scene of Lucy and Ethel at the candy factory. The emails keep on coming, but I simply can’t keep up.

But a couple of weeks ago, I had an idea.

As I was settling into my seat for a 4.5-hour flight, I opened my iPad and downloaded all of my emails. The flight attendant instructed us to switch our devices into airplane mode and store them away as soon as I finished. I dutifully complied.

However, once we were in flight, I pulled my iPad back out and spent the first hour of the trip clearing through two weeks of backlogged emails. Undistracted by internet access, I thoughtfully wrote responses to each one, clicking “Send” as I finished and moving on to the next.

Without Wi-Fi, I didn’t have any opportunity to be interrupted. And when I finished, I had an empty inbox, a full outbox, at a satisfied mind. So I tucked the iPad away and celebrated by watching an in-flight movie.

Once we landed, I popped open the iPad again and got back online. I can’t tell you how satisfying it was to watch all of the emails flutter away from my outbox like so many carrier pigeons taking my messages to the world.

It all felt so efficient.

I’d been dreading this seemingly herculean feat of catching up on email, but it only took 60 minutes of focused effort to get completely caught up.

That evening, I found myself thinking, “man, I should just get on an airplane every time I’m behind on email. But that would be ridiculous.”

Or would it?

Since that flight, I’ve begun practicing the “airplane mode email technique.” Doing so has allowed me to keep up with email better, feel more at peace with my bottomless inbox, and spend less time on email overall. And I didn’t even need to purchase another plane ticket to make it happen.

Here’s how you do the airplane mode mail technique.

  1. Switch your device into airplane mode
  2. Set a timer for 30 minutes
  3. Write as many emails as you can in that time
  4. Click send as you finish writing each one
  5. Turn the internet back on and watch them whoosh out to your recipients

A nice bonus I’ve found is that if I do this on a laptop or tablet, it allows me to get away from the desk and even sit outside while I email. This simple practice has transformed email from a frustrating chore to something I somehow enjoy a little bit!

So if you struggle to keep up with inbox madness, give the airplane mode email technique a try.

Read this article on the blog.

✨ New on Redeeming Productivity

🎙Wisdom & ‘Christian’ Gurus (24 mins)

What do Jordan Peterson, Rachel Hollis, and Dave Ramsey all have in common? According to one writer, these three represent the inroads that secular self-help has made into the church. But why have these gurus have become so influential in our churches? Is there an area of Christian living that the church has been deficient in addressing? I think so.

Make sure you're subscribed to the Redeeming Productivity Show so you don't miss an episode.

🧑‍💻The Roundup

Live Closer to Home: How Proximity Shapes Responsibility (6 mins)

John Calvin notes that since human ambition ‘longs to embrace various things at once,’ every person has objective callings ‘assigned to him by the Lord as a sort of sentry post so that he may not heedlessly wander about throughout life’”

(Scott Hubbard / Desiring God)

Have iPhone Cameras Become Too Smart? (7 mins)

“Apple’s newest smartphone models use machine learning to make every image look professionally taken. That doesn’t mean the photos are good.”

(Kyle Chayka / The New Yorker)

The Subtle Way to Waste Your Life: Confessions of a Sophisticated Sloth (6 mins)

“I never thought of myself as slothful. I get things done. At times, I’ve worked very hard. No one would have looked at me and said I sleep too much, or that I neglected my studies, or that I put off difficult things indefinitely. But looking back, I have realized in my work life that I have lived too often as a sophisticated sloth.”

(Greg Morse / Desiring God)

J. R. R. Tolkien’s Paintings

This one is for the LOTR nerds.

“Tolkien was an accomplished amateur artist who painted for pleasure and relaxation. He excelled at landscapes and often drew inspiration from his own stories. He illustrated many scenes from The Silmarillion*,* The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings*, sometimes drawing or painting as he was writing in order to visualize the imagined scene more clearly.”*

(The Tolkien Estate)

Every Technology Has Its Own Agenda (4 mins)

The technologies we use each day may not be good or evil, but they do have a purpose to their design. And wisdom requires us to consider exactly what end our apps and gadgets were made for.

“Dr. Postman tells us that every technology has a telos—though he doesn’t use that word—or a chief purpose for which it was made.”

(Chris Martin / Terms of Service)

3 Approaches for Evangelism in a Remote Workplace (2 mins)

“As someone who has worked from home for the past three years, I get the appeal. Remote work has some wonderful benefits. But it also carries a significant cost—because our workplaces are the primary place where most of us build relationships with unbelievers.”

(Jordan Raynor / The Gospel Coalition)

🎓 To Do Lists Done Right

Do you struggle to stay on top of your commitments?

Do you find yourself saying you’ll do something, then completely forgetting about it?

What you need is a to-do list. But not just any to-do list. You need a commitment management system grounded in biblical principles that’s flexible enough to work with any app or even just paper and pen.

In my course, To Do Lists Done Right, I teach you a practical system for managing your commitments in a God-honoring way.

👍 Something I Like: Theologian's Pen

If you’re a theology nerd, a friend of mine is launching a really interesting project called Theologian's Pen.

“Many of us know the experience of discovering an old theological gem online only to find that the work is formatted in a way that makes it practically unreadable. Free online PDFs garner initial excitement but don't make for lasting enjoyment. Theologian's Pen resolves this issue by giving theology enthusiasts the works of history's greatest theologians in an easily accessible and readable format.”

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⌛️That’s All for this Week

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I'll see you next time!

– Reagan