I receive, on average a hundred emails a day between my work and personal accounts.
A couple weeks ago, I opened up my Gmail account—I had 14,603 items in my Inbox.
At work, I noticed I had 2,216 emails…unread.
I knew I was facing a moment like Michael Scott—I needed to declare bankruptcy.
Nick Bilton, a tech writer for the New York Times recently wrote this piece on email bankruptcy. When I shared Bilton’s piece on Facebook, I got the question, “Did you really just delete everything?” A friend in IT at work said, “Some people just delete all their emails. You’re not going to do that, are you?”
Well, sort of. Yeah.
In both accounts, I wanted a safety net. So in Gmail I created a label named “Languishing 2013.” I applied that to every single message in my inbox. I looked at the last few weeks of messages to make sure there was nothing needing attention.
Then, I archived those 14,603 emails like a boss.
At work, it was a bit more complicated. I went into the Outlook program on my laptop (I normally use the web app). There, I created a folder called “Languishing 2013.” And I moved every single email—thousands and thousands of them—from my inbox to that folder. I wanted to shout like Braveheart. Except I wasn’t dying…and I was in my cubicle at work.
By creating my “Languishing” label and folder, I aimed to avoid getting judged by people who think it’s irresponsible to just delete all your emails. (I got off on a technicality, but I’ll take it.) But I get all the joy and freedom that this drastic step offers. (And, truth be told, I had scanned the subject and first line of every one of those emails when it came in, so that may make this easier.)
For a number of months, I had long kept lots of emails in my inbox in hopes of taking some action on them—starting a project, reading a book, setting a meeting, etc.
But the truth of it was, I was kidding myself, and I was kidding my colleagues and friends.
I was not going to read those 20,000+ emails. I was not going to start all the good ideas therein. I was not going to do anything except reference them.
The thousands of emails in my inbox were functionally archived. But they sat there, stressing me out.
So my first tip on email sanity, dear reader, is…
Stop kidding yourself.
If you’re going to go back to them, prove it, Hot Shot.
If not, fess up.
Tune in Thursday for five more tips on email sanity.
Do you agree or disagree? Have you ever declared email bankruptcy? How’d that work out for you? Leave a comment.