Sometimes I realize that I’m a bit of a strange one. For example, a few different ’causes’ in my life have contributed to my distaste for handwriting letters:
- Since childhood I have suffered physical pain in my wrists/hands when writing. I’m fine for a few lines – maybe a paragraph or two – but the pain quickly grows intolerable…this means anything I hand write is limited in length or requires multiple session to complete.1Along with this, my handwriting grows progressively illegible as the pain increases.
- I’m not particularly talented with completing mundane tasks. When I have to, I can make myself – but doing things like buying stamps and posting letters requires a significant amount of effort on my part.
- I’m not good at remembering that I should send letters to so-and-so at such-and-such a time.
In addition to this, I have a bit of a phone phobia. I dislike talking on the phone. I prefer communication in-person or via email or other technological means…but this leaves me in a bind when it comes to loved ones (e.g. grandparents) who are not technically adept. I’ll admit that oftentimes to this juncture I have failed in keeping in communication with such loved ones…but I wanted to share two means by which I’ve been changing and hope to continue to change that.
First, briefly, to address the issue of these mundane tasks and remembering to send an occasional letter I would direct your attention (as I have my own) to David Allen’s excellent book Getting Things Done. This can be greatly augmented by the use of a task management system – such as Asana. Using Asana I define recurring tasks for myself (e.g. “write so-and-so a letter”) and am thus reminded at regular intervals to do so.
“Dave, that is horribly mechanistic. Do you think that really shows someone you care about them?” I certainly hope so. See, letters are not to me as valuable as they are to others – not that I do not enjoy them, but I certainly don’t associate them as deeply as many with being cared for or loved. Perhaps at this juncture it is worthwhile to mention Dr. Gary Chapman’s classic book The Five Love Languages which addresses that different individuals value different sorts of expressions of love differently. I am seeking to intentionally express love in a way that a particular individual enjoys.
Secondly, and just as important, is a service like Mail A Letter. I mention Mail A Letter specifically b/c after trying several different services this is the one I found actually works. It seems this idea never really caught on – and so a lot of the sites offering these services are dead or half-dead.
Mail A Letter allows you to write a letter (in a WYSIWYG editor), choose a physical address, and then send the letter to that address. The first letter I sent was returned to me undeliverable (I sent it to an address I was unsure of…and it was the wrong one :)) and I was happy with the quality of the materials utilized and the letter itself. Now, this service isn’t free. It costs $0.99 per letter – but really that isn’t bad at all (and while it may sound like I’m a salesperson for Mail A Letter or that I am at least getting a referral fee from them – I’m not – I just love the idea and the service). Think about it:
- Stamp – $0.45.
- Envelope – $0.05.
- Paper – $0.02.
- Time Spent (purchasing paper, envelopes, stamps, addressing envelope, etc.) – How much is your time worth? $0.05 a minute? $0.10? $0.25? $1.00? How many minutes does all of this take to accomplish?
We are over halfway there just with material expenses and that doesn’t include the time expenses as well…and in my opinion, time is more valuable than money.
It really comes down to the simple truth: if you are like me you won’t send (or only very rarely) real letters to your non-techie loved ones unless you do it in this way…and when you do send one, it will likely languish for days or weeks waiting for you to purchase more stamps, envelopes, or even just remember to walk it to the mailbox.
For a little extra icing on the cake – Mail A Letter offers an address book capability that makes it simple to keep your physical addresses handy and keeps you from reentering them every time you write someone, integrates with PayPal and Google Checkout for payments, and the ability to handle mass mailings for businesses (including an API).