More Email Than You Can Read? There’s a Better Way

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Do you know how many email subscriptions you have?

I didn’t. Turns out, I had over 130. After switching from Gmail to Microsoft Outlook recently, I have been keeping busy spring cleaning out my email inbox over the past few weeks. I am proud to say that I recently re-established my zeroed-out inbox, and wanted to share my new and improved process in a short series of posts.

How did we get here?

You know the feeling: you come across an awesome website and fork over your email address in exchange for the promise of their awesome exclusive updates, or you are at the checkout counter at Express and the nice checkout girl asks for your email address in exchange for coupons – who doesn’t want to save money? The channels through which we get email sent to our inboxes are endless. Throughout my process of unsubscribing from over 130 different services, I learned a lot about the obvious and not so obvious culprits causing my email inbox to overflow.

Did you realize, for example, that every time you create a new account profile with your email address for an app or a website you are signing up for marketing emails, even if you didn’t ever set up any specific email preferences? I was surprised by how many times I clicked the unsubscribe option and was directed to my profile page with selected email marketing options that I had never seen or chosen. It was eye-opening.

I often ask people about their email inboxes because I have become increasingly fascinated with the problem of too much email over the past several years. Before reading books by David Allen and Leo Babauta, the concept of having an empty email inbox was so foreign to me that it wasn’t even on my radar. Once I became aware that a cleared out email inbox was a possibility in this lifetime, I wanted it. Maybe not everyone cares about having an empty email inbox, but for those of us who seek the bliss that an empty inbox brings, I am happy to say that it is possible.

Unnecessary emails represent wasted time and energy. Time and energy that could be better spent doing meaningful things. As a blogger, I realize that email marketing is potentially a significant component of my future aspirations. But we all get to choose what information flows into our inboxes. Perhaps a few thoughtfully chosen subscriptions have meaning. But when they are drowned out by hundreds that do not hold meaning to us personally, then how can any meaning be derived from any of it? That, my friends, is a massive junk drawer just begging for a spring cleaning.

Time to Re-evaluate Email Subscriptions

Several years ago, I developed a system of filtering out email that sailed into my Gmail inbox. Anytime I received a marketing or promotional email that I was no longer interested in receiving, I would create a filter and have those types of emails go to my Gmail archive. I reasoned that I had subscribed to the service for a reason, and could easily do a search of my archive anytime I wanted to get a coupon for Express or read a newsletter from one of my favorite bloggers.

While reflecting on the efficiency of this system, I could not remember a single time that I actually searched for something in my Gmail archive that I might have filtered out. When I switched from Gmail to Outlook a few weeks ago, the filters were no longer active, and I started getting emails from organizations such as Memphis in May (haven’t lived in Memphis for over 3 years), Spirit Airlines (vowed to never fly with them again due to their overt cheapness), the Splenda Recipe Club (stopped using Splenda months ago), and countless other services I had long ago sent to my email graveyard. I had a choice to make: recreate all those filters and continue living in denial that I was subscribed to services I had no interest in, or stand up for my email inbox and unsubscribe once and for all.

Next time I will provide a detailed description of my unsubscribing process that has brought me back once again to a blissfully empty inbox. In the meantime, what is your email subscription philosophy? Do you create filters, unsubscribe, or something else? let us know below. Namaste!

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