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.



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