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Here's what happened when the founders of a $100m company stopped using email

‘A lot of people misuse it and clearing their inbox becomes their mark of success for the day.’
Jan 1st 2016, 10:30 AM 54,114 35

WHEN YOU’RE RUNNING a $100 million (€91.5 million) company, people want to talk to you.

The founders of Life is Good, a New England-based clothing company best known for its optimistic t-shirts, know this to be true from personal experience.

John Jacobs (47) and his brother Bert Jacobs (50) started selling shirts on the street in 1989 and founded Life is Good in 1994.

Since then, the company has grown to about 250 employees and is now worth more than $100 million — and with that growth came a significant increase in the volume of digital communication they were forced to digest every day.

life-is-good-bert-and-john-jacobs Source: Life is Good

“The time we spent daily just shoveling out our email inboxes was daunting. And we were going to bed at night feeling guilty and inadequate because we couldn’t get ahead. The more emails we sent out, the more flowed back in,” they write in their book Life is Good.

At first, they made a compromise: They would only answer emails on Wednesdays.

“But that didn’t really help because we had to deal with the same amount of emails,” John explains.

So they decided to make a more radical move.

“It just got kind of crazy so we took a leap of faith and said, ‘What if we made a move to get off email completely?’,” John says.

Feeling free

They write in the book that the day they dropped their email accounts, they walked out the door and on to the street and felt free.

We kept wondering if people were going to get upset, or if the email police would come to arrest us, but they never did.

John says they now delegate all the technical stuff, including email, so they can focus on the creative side, which is really where their strengths lie “and what we wanted to get back to”.

41b6gvfuyvl Source: Amazon

Every two weeks, their team summarises only the most important communications for them — which they say is not only efficient, but also liberating.

John says the move was “really healthy” for them as well as the company, because it freed up their time and brainpower to focus on bigger projects.

It allows us to spend more time on high level questions, puzzles or projects and to be more creative because we have more mind space for that now.

They say in the book that their productivity rose and their contacts made “quick, healthy adjustments”.

The brothers are now only directly available by cellphone. “We find that people are a little more hesitant to pull you into minor matters on cell phones as opposed to email,” John says.

He admits that email can be a tremendous tool for people who use it wisely, and acknowledges that dropping email entirely isn’t an option for everyone — but he says people should take a careful look at their email habits and think about how they change them to be more efficient.

“A lot of people misuse it and go overboard and clearing their inbox becomes their mark of success for the day,” John says. “I would seriously challenge people to simplify their life and make some major changes to alleviate the amount of email they’re handling per day.”

- Natalie Walters

Read: Is Mark Zuckerberg trying to avoid tax by giving away billions to charity?

Read: This smartphone’s big selling point is you can clean it with soap

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