Declaring Email Bankruptcy

Last week’s posting featured the Spring Challenger, winner of the Spring Cleaning Challenge contest.  I followed up with the Spring Challenger to find out how she managed to delete over 30,000 emails and how long it took her.

She said most of it was performed in a single sitting by first identifying an unwanted promotional email.  Then she unsubscribed to the service to reduce future unwanted emails from arriving.  Then she searched for all of the unwanted promotionals related to that email and deleted them en masse.  This type of a strategy is fairly effective because it’s removing all of the unwanted, unread email, but also prevents future emails by unsubscribing to the email services.

Another strategy I heard about is to declare “email bankruptcy”.  Basically you delete all of your unread emails without reviewing them and start fresh with a clean inbox.  As a courtesy it’s recommended to add a small note to your email signature informing people that you recently declared email bankruptcy and any important emails requiring a response may have to be resent.

Email bankruptcy, similar to financial bankruptcy, is not the kind of thing you want to declare often.  While email bankruptcy may provide some immediate relief for getting a handle on email, if it’s not accompanied by methods, strategies, and habits to deal with incoming email, you’re going to end up in the same predicament.  How quickly this happens depends on the daily volume.

If you’re interested in cleaning up your email, you may decide to do it more gradually like the Spring Challenger, or you may decide to declare email bankruptcy and purge everything unread in one go.  Either way, both options need to be accompanied with new habits and tactics.  Here’s a few tips that I find useful:

  1. Unsubscribe to any and all promotionals, newsletters, social notifications, etc. that you review less than once a month
  2. Adjust settings to receive notifications as a digest (i.e. aggregate of emails over a period of time) rather than as single email notifications
  3. Create rules to sort and organize emails automatically (many applications come equipped with this option)
  4. Delete anything unwanted right away
  5. Develop a routine to sort emails by the action required before answering/processing any of them (i.e. respond, book an appointment, delegate)

Be mindful of how and why you use email.  Think of alternative options.



3 comments for “Declaring Email Bankruptcy

  1. 14 July 2015 at 08:27

    Great list of suggestions for email management. To your list, I would add one other one: budget a little bit of time each week to review your emails. This could be as little as 30 minutes over a lunch break or at the beginning/end of the day. Putting “Email Cleanup” on your calendar may also serve as a good reminder to do the task. Although 30 minutes may not be enough, especially if you do it only once a week, it is better than nothing and you will be able to clear out quite a bit of the unwanted stuff.

    • The Deletist
      18 July 2015 at 08:17

      Yes! Also a great suggestion to dedicate time for email clean up.

  2. Bruno
    14 July 2015 at 12:26

    Excellent article!!
    Keep up the great work.

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