Donald Knuth, famously, does not have an email account. Instead, he replies to correspondence (by snail mail) about once every three months. I’m starting to appreciate his motivation. Now obviously, Donald isn’t in the business of selling, and his needs are slightly different to mine. But do I need to check my email so often?

One of the first things I do when I get a new phone is to get it hooked up to my IMAP account. On my iPhone, this is a trivial process – and checking my email is even easier. The result is that I end up compulsively checking it whenever I’m walking along. This morning, I suddenly realised that I didn’t need to check it, that any email I had received was highly unlikely be so urgent that it required reading Right Now yet not urgent enough to warrant phoning me. So I left my phone in my pocket, carried on walking, and enjoyed the view, with my right hand twitching towards my phone every so often.

Replying to email on an iPhone is a pain anyway. I rarely use it to send or reply – if I get an interesting message, I’ll almost certainly read it again later on my desktop, and reply from there. The device, unlike the aptly named Crackberry, is simply not optimised for it. If you never get a chance to sit down at your desk and process your email queue, then sure, you need a good mobile email client – i.e. a Blackberry. The iPhone is a great all-purpose device which meets my needs; that is getting information on the move, and demonstrating smart applications to clients. I don’t need to check my email every five seconds when I’m on the move – and from now on I won’t.

Seth Godin wrote a similarly minded article today called “The High Cost of Now” – worth a look.

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