Tuesday, May 31, 2016

You're invited to... unsubscribe

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks furiously unsubscribing from every newsletter that has landed in my inbox. My peak email count was an average of 160 emails a day. My inbox was out of control. Going on a business trip for 3-4 days meant that I came back to more than 600 emails to slog through. I even calculated that even if it takes only 1 second to press delete per email, that’s a full 10 minutes of hitting delete to get rid of the rubbish. But the menial task of binary prioritisation takes longer than 1 second per mail and I’m still left with a substantial amount of emails that actually do need to be addressed.

As I went through the task of unsubscribing, I recognised that I had signed up to some newsletters but many seemed to have just arrived on their own. Then there are the emails that are plain spam with no option to unsubscribe. You’d hope your junk mail filters would take care of them, although mine doesn’t seem to be doing such a good job. Of the 160 per day, there are maybe only 30 that actually need my attention.

I was reluctant to embark on this unsubscribe exercise since I’d done it once before and found that somehow the number of spam emails I received had increased rather than decreased. I also tried creating rules for emails I didn’t want, so that they’d get filtered directly to my Junk folder and when my Mail programme decided to run an update, all my rules were lost. Besides, I began to notice that many newsletters from the same place use different email addresses to send from, perhaps to avoid exactly this kind of filtering system.

Emails are an issue for many of us. I don’t know anyone who complains about getting too few emails. They take up focus, time, energy and headspace. As they arrive, their ping, banner and announcement distract us from our work which makes us lose more focus, energy, time and headspace.

Nonetheless, I decided to allocate some time and go through the exercise of unsubscribing once again and here is what I did:

1.     I chose 5 newsletters that I actually do read every time they land up in my inbox – and I mean every time – no compromises. Those get to stay.

2.     Once the process began an interesting thing happened. I started to feel bad… for the people I know personally who send emails and I’d now unsubscribe – would they know that I had unsubscribed, would they be upset? Regardless, the war on emails continued.

3.     I noticed the newsletters offering the fabulous course or retreat that I would so love to attend… one day. What if I missed out on getting to know about that one retreat that I would actually attend? A bit of FOMO crept in but I continued on.

4.     I noticed the newsletters that I never did subscribe to and wondered how they ever landed up in my inbox.

5.     I noticed the emails that didn’t have an unsubscribe option at all. I created an email rule to filter to junk for these.

Unrelenting, I continued on my mission and realised that there are other ways to stay in touch. For example, you can like Facebook pages instead of subscribing to emails so that if you want to know what is going on, you can actually go to the page and check it out – on your own terms, at your own time

Now that I’m not constantly bombarded with exciting events and promises, I actually feel more focused, happier. I now know that I don’t need to hear about all the events and outings I’m clearly not going to attend, even if they sound wonderful.

While there are definitely newsletters that I’ve unsubscribed from that keep popping back into my inbox, I’ve noticed my daily emails have now reduced to somewhere around 80 and that the number of spam emails has also reduced.

I feel clearer, cleaner and don’t need to get bogged down with facing that dreaded inbox, spending 10 minutes a day hitting the delete button.

I’ve also created a second email address for those times I do want to read an article that requires a sign-in. That inbox can get as full as it likes. I never look at it and no-one else gets that email address.

In the meantime… I invite you to unsubscribe, with these strategies:

1.     Choose 5 to keep
2.     For the rest, unsubscribe
3.     Create a second email address for sign-ups
4.     Sign up on social media to check-in intentionally
5.     Create an email rule to filter spam to junk
6.     Unsubscribe some more

What strategies have worked for you in managing your inbox?