When you’re running a $100 million company, people want to talk to you.
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.
“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 to Business Insider.
So they decided to make a more radical move.
A leap of faith
“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.
They write in the book that the day they dropped their email accounts, they walked out the door and onto 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,” they write.
John tells Business Insider that 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.” Every two weeks, their team summarises only the most important communications for them — which they say is not only efficient, but also liberating.
Freeing up time and brain power
John says the move was “really healthy” for them, as well as the company, because it freed up their time and brain power 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,” he says.
They say in the book that their productivity rose and their contacts made “quick, healthy adjustments.”
The beauty of the cell phone
They brothers are now only directly available by cell phone. “We find that people are a little more hesitant to pull you into minor matters on cell phones as opposed to email,” says John.
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.”
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