When you die you won’t care about emails.

A journalist asked if I’d be willing to offer my thoughts on email etiquette, ideal communication practices in the digital era, and whatnot, for a story she was putting together. I happily agreed.

But as I began typing my responses to her (very good, very thoughtful, very smart) questions, I felt a powerful urge to delete everything I’d written, replacing all of my “email advice” with just one sentence:

When you die you won’t care about emails.

This is the truth.

Yes, email is a remarkable tool.

Yes, it’s satisfying (for a few minutes, anyway) to clear your box and reach that precious state known as “inbox zero.”

Yes, it’s good to be timely with your responses, demonstrating care, professionalism, and respect for those who write to you.

Yes, it’s valuable to think about how to communicate more effectively.

All of that: yes.

But let’s get real.

At the end of your life, as you’re drifting away from this world, are you really going to think to yourself, “Gosh, I am so glad I managed to empty my inbox on a daily basis! Well done, me! I was really ‘the best’ at email. Now I can depart this world in peace.”

No. You are going to think to yourself, “I am so grateful for every kiss, for every orgasm, for every project that allowed me to contribute to society in a meaningful way, for every deep friendship, for all the corners of the earth that I managed to explore, for long sun-drenched days and luminous conversations, unfolding into the night…”

Or, sadly, you might think to yourself, “I wish I’d spent less time online, in my inbox, and more time doing… well, just about anything else.”

Thinking about the inevitable end can show us how we ought to live.

I used to be a “clear out the inbox every single night” kind of gal.

I took great pride in the fact that my inbox was always impressively de-cluttered and zen, and that nobody had to wait more than a few hours to receive a response from me.

Over the past couple of years, though, something has shifted in me.

Maybe it’s because I broke my leg, but it just as easily could have been my neck.

Maybe it’s because I read a book called Die Empty and it changed me.

Maybe it’s because my last remaining grandparent passed away.

Maybe all of the above.

But when it comes to email, I just don’t care about being “the best” at it anymore.

I do not strive for “inbox zero.” I answer most emails in a timely fashion (current clients and customers always get a quick-ish reply, with very rare exceptions), but I let certain non-urgent notes sit for days, even (GASP, SHOCK, HORROR) weeks before I send a personal response, because clearing my inbox just for the sake of clearing it is… just not my top priority anymore.

My approach may not feel “right” for everyone but it sure feels right for me.

I often say to myself:

“I’m not ‘behind’ on my emails. I’m ‘ahead’ on my life.”

What kind of life do you wish to lead?

How do you want to feel when you die?

Here is what I know, now, for certain:

If my heart is full, grateful, and happy, and my inbox is brimming with unanswered missives, I can live — and die — with that.