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3 Reasons to Turn Your Phone's Push Email Off Right Now

Image via Sakhal /


All day. Every day. Sometimes it came from my pocket. Other times my bag. Still other times it possessed my phone, causing it to dance across my desk. The thing was buzzing…even when it wasn’t buzzing. I began to hear and feel “phantom buzzing”—buzzing coming from my pocket when in fact there was no phone in said pocket.

I wasn’t insane. I was simply living with push email turned on. When you signed up for a smartphone you didn’t sign up to be bothered, 24/7. Push back by turning off push email. Initially, I worried I’d miss important updates or miss urgent messages from clients. None of that happened (turns out I’m not as important as I thought). Instead, my life felt considerably more under control.

As we live our digital lives we are witness to countless small miracles every day—from GPS and picture messaging to countless little useful apps and Angry Birds Star Wars. Point being: unless we choose not to be, we’re never not stimulated. According to Pew Internet, 46 percent of American adults owned smartphones as of Feb. 2012, up from 35 percent in May 2011. The pace at which we’ve adopted these devices is stunning.

Digital Discipline

But what we forgot to consider while snapping up the newest phones was how to use them properly. We failed to consider the discipline required by these “always on” devices.

We’ve already talked about how some employers are encouraging employees to stop checking email after work hours. You can take an even simpler step, today, by turning off your phone’s ability to automatically fetch new mail.

There are numerous benefits to stopping automatic push emails on your phone:

  1. You’ll be less distracted. It’s hard to get work done when you’re a slave to the constant updates of your phone. Set aside “email time” in your calendar to check your email at a specific time each day and respond on your own terms, not your phones.
  2. You can reaffirm work-life balance. Nobody expects you to be wired in all the time—except for you. Don’t let the phone dictate how available you are. By turning off automatic push emails you’ll have the freedom to tune out your phone in the evenings or when you’re off duty. When the buzzing dies down, you’ll notice your desire to check it constantly will too.
  3. You’ll save your phone’s battery. Your phone sucks a lot of power constantly communicating with email servers. Try turning off push email and see how many more precious hours you’ll get out of your phone on a single charge.

How do you turn off fetch email?

On an iPhone, got to the Settings app, in the “Mail, Contacts, Calendars” section. 

Notice you have the option to turn “fetch new data” to OFF. Flip it to off and you'll be on your way to saving both your battery and your sanity.

For Android and Blackberry, it is often device specific. Simply googling “turn off automatic email” and the model of your phone should turn up resources to help you out.

Does your phone fetch new email all day?  

(Image via Sakhal /

Mark Micheli is Special Projects Editor for Government Executive Media Group. He's the editor of Excellence in Government Online and contributes to GovExec, NextGov and Defense One. Previously, he worked on national security and emergency management issues with the US Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. He's a graduate of the Coro Fellows Program in Public Affairs and studied at Drake University.

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