Post office mode for email

I want email to behave more like snail mail.

You see, I have a problem. I get distracted by email. I’m aware of all the standard advice: turn off notifications, don’t check email too often, etc. But my issue is not that I go to my inbox to check for messages. I go there as part of another workflow and end up going down the rabbit hole. I use Gmail, which provides a lot of free storage and excellent search capability. As such my inbox has become my communication history. Told someone I’d follow up on something but forgot what exactly? I search my email to see what I last told them., check the most recent result. Want to check out that article someone recommended, but can’t remember the URL? Well, I remember who recommended it and what we were talking about. meditation. Mortgage broker needs a copy of my driver’s license? I had sent that to our daughter’s preschool for a background check. has:attachment license. Bingo!

But the issue is that going to my inbox automatically performs a check for new messages. Just knowing they’re there makes me think I’m either missing something, or something is expected of me and I’m letting someone down. Even if I resist reading the new messages, the preview is enough to give things away sometimes. If I’ve applied for a job and see a message from the recruiter whose preview begins with “I regret to inform you …” I know what it’s about. And I can’t unsee it.

On the other hand, consider the regular postal service. Regardless of how many letters I write and put in the mailbox, or how many people write to me and when, the mail carrier only comes around once a day. If I look through yesterday’s pile of mail, I simply can’t know about any letters sent to me since. This was a sane model of asynchronous communication. Even old email clients did this. I remember using Outlook when broadband connectivity wasn’t ubiquitous. Outlook couldn’t assume you were always online. When you wrote an email it wouldn’t immediately send it. The message would sit in your outbox. Only when you actually got online – when your parents weren’t using the landline – and clicked “Send & Receive” did everything actually go out and any new messages got deposited in your inbox.

I want something similar in Gmail: “post office mode”. If turned on, hold all my new messages at the server. Let me mess around on the site but just don’t show me any unread messages until I’m ready. Let me click a button whose sole purpose is to open the flood gates. Or adopt the post office model completely. Just don’t deliver messages any more frequently than once every 24 hours. And maybe not at all on Sundays.