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Email Is A Time Sink – Clear It Out!

Query by emailI can’t be the only one who subscribes to ezines and newsletters. I doubt if I’m the only one who often subscribes to the same newsletter twice, although I’m not exactly sure how that happens, but it does. All of a sudden my inbox is stuffed with duplicates.

In my case the duplicates are mostly around writing, sustainability, Buddhism, and progressive politics. My mail box fills up daily and it can become a horrible time sink.

So every now and again I change my focus a bit. As I go through email answering, sorting, etc., I also take the time to unsubscribe or assign to junk lots and lots of it.

That turns out to be time well spent because it reduces, for awhile, the load.

I know there are people who have their email automatically sorted with filters. That doesn’t work for me because I lose track of what I’ve filters and can go weeks without looking in what is really a fairly important email folder.

The other trick I use is every now an again sort my in box by sender and go through and delete all those emails I thought I’d read but never got around to it. I find that an additional sort on subject tends to pick up the rest of the stuff I thought I wanted but didn’t.

How to you handle email?


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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • At work, I have to watch it all day because a lot of my tasks come through it. At home, I have personal email for stuff like shopping, bill-paying, etc. and try to clean it out at least once a week. It has a spam filter so there’s not a lot of that coming through. I do need to unsubscribe to a few things, though. I check that one when I get home and get it out of the way before doing work or my own writing.

    My writing stuff has a completely separate Gmail address. I subscribed to Publisher’s Lunch, but honestly, I’m drowning in them. I may have to drop that for a while. Like you said, I can always resubscribe later.
    Elizabeth West recently posted..Upcoming- April A to Z Blogging Challenge and PoopedMy Profile

  • You’re not alone, Anne! I’m an information junkie; I love learning new things, and I tend to store up bits and pieces of nifty stuff that I may not be able to find again and may want to write about. Too many newsletters to keep up with, junk mail, RSS feeds… it gets overwhelming. Once in a while I just have to go through my data stores with a machete’. 🙂
    Allan Douglas recently posted..Yahoo Mountain Dew!My Profile

    • arghhhhh did you have to remind me of my rss reader mess? 😉 too many to do me any good at all. We live in an info sea that’s swamping at least me when I’m not watching.

  • Remember when email used to get blocked when the person receiving it had a full mailbox? I think that’s what caused me to check email three times a day so I always got email I should be getting.
    Bill Swan recently posted..Business Lesson From Google to Content Writers – It’s About the MoneyMy Profile

    • I still run into that once in a while… but not like we used to for sure.

  • I don’t sign up for newsletters or e-zines unless I cannot live without them.

    I have a Hotmail account I divert things to when I’m forced to give my email address on sign up. I haven’t been to that account in a month or so. When I get time, I go and sort through. Otherwise, I can ignore it.

    For the few things that do come in, I have a few rules that sort them into specific folders – things like PR news prompts or specific client projects. That way I’m not tripping over them in my main in box. And I’ve unsubscribed to two things this week. I hate when companies put you on an automatic list the minute you buy something. I usually funnel these to my Gmail account, but the Spam filter there isn’t quite as good, so it all ends up in my main email.
    Lori recently posted..Stealth NetworkingMy Profile

    • I don’t have much discipline around subscribing to politics and environmental stuff… but unsubscribe works pretty well.

  • The “sort by sender” trick is quite effective, I apply it every now and then. Sometimes, I just unsubscribe on the spot, having decided, after a few emails, which are really useful for me and info-loaded and which are just ruminating things told a zillion times.
    When my interests/tasks shift, I can always go back to my inbox, sort by sender or by subject, and reconnect to a source.
    Helenee recently posted..Greek Ouzo- Drinking with the Gods updated Wed Feb 23 2011 4-24 am CSTMy Profile

    • Yes, Helenee, when I hesitate to unsubscribe I remind myself I can resubscribe.

  • Hi Anne:

    It’s so true that email can and does eat up so much time! I really noticed it when I committed to only checking my email three times a day. I check it in the morning before I start my day, at lunch and at the end of my day before I close my office for the night.

    I go through my email one by one. I make a decision as to what to do with the email right then and there. I respond, delete, file away or add the task to my to-do list. Every night before I shut down my computer, my email box is completely empty.

    It is a much more efficient use of my time than when I was constantly checking my email throughout the day. I get a lot more done now and I never would have realized that if i hadn’t made the commitment to free myself from my email in the first place.

    I hope this helps!


  • I too am a ruthless unsubscriber. I try to go through monthly and kill things off.

    I also have my email organized into folders, and one is for newsletters. It keeps them out of my vital email stream from editors and prospects. I can just leave them for a week, which is what I often do. Then I’ll go through and read a bunch at once — find it’s way more time-effective to get into learning mode and stay there for an hour and see a lot of stuff, then move on.
    Carol Tice | Make a Living Writing recently posted..The Definitive Guide to Overcoming Your Writing FearsMy Profile

  • Thanks. Good tip!

  • Hazel

    I have tried different systems for keeping my email under control. Nothing has worked so far – but I’m encouraged by your post to try again. Thanks!

  • Hi Anne:

    About 6 months ago, I unsubscribed to about 90% of my emails.

    Ironically enough (or maybe NOT so ironic), that was when my workload and income picked up.

    Now, if I can do the same with my house…


    • I think Carol Tice’s remove three things applies here too

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