Post used to take 38 hours to arrive now we’re inbox junkies

On the 6th of May 1840 the Penny Black stamp went on sale for the first time. “…A bit of paper just large enough to bear the stamp, and covered at the back with a glutinous wash” was how Rowland Hill first described the Penny Black stamp.

Until the introduction of the Penny Black postal rates across the country were high and usually based on distance travelled. The recipients were often expected to pay the cost of the postage although some items were free.

Penny blackjpg
Penny by Kevin Walsh courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

The image of Queen Victoria which appears on the stamp was based on a sculpture by William Wyon. This came from a sketch of the young queen at 15 and was to remain the image on the stamp until the end of her reign. Hopefully this made up for the fact that Queen Victoria’s free privileges where the post was concerned were withdrawn with the introduction of the new postal rates and the Penny Black.

What began in 1635 with young boys carrying letters between ‘posts’ evolved to include the first mail coach which ran on 2nd August 1784 between Bristol and London. The journey took 16 hours. Before mail coaches it would have taken up to 38 hours.

Mail coach
Royal Mail Coach by The Postal Museum courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY-SA 2.0

The mail coaches themselves eventually gave way in the 1840s and 1850s to the ever expanding railway.

Progress never stands still.

Nowadays we send the majority of our ‘post’ by email. With the tap of a button our email can arrive in someone’s inbox on the other side of the world within seconds of us pressing send. We can even receive their response straight back. The speed of email would have amazed our ancestors but it probably would have alarmed them too.

Email is wonderful in so many ways but it comes at a cost and I am not talking about your internet service provider. We have all experienced the stress of a full inbox, a rising sense of panic that we are never going to get on top of all the messages especially as new ones pile in.

Mr. Popular by Jason Rogers courtesy of Flickr licensed by CC BY 2.0

Clearing the inbox becomes a matter of pride for some people. You feel better once it has been decluttered and messages in response fired off. Deleting emails which are of no interest can feel cathartic.

It takes skill to be in charge of your inbox rather than your inbox being in charge of you. It is however a skill we should all acquire. Don’t leap to open the inbox the second you hear the telltale sound of another message arriving. Instead try to have planned times of the day when you look at your emails. If you respond every time the message symbol appears you’ll be forever pulled away from the things you should be doing and only giving half your attention to them whilst you wait for the next message to appear.

Mounting Bills Project 365(2) Day 142 by Keith Williamson courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons licensed by CC BY 2.0

The days of waiting 38 hours for the post to arrive are thankfully long gone. But don’t go to the other extreme and be an inbox junkie. Checking it once every few hours will be enough to keep on top of the urgent stuff and, crucially, give you the head space to get the more important things done.