Love your inbox

unsubscribeI love email. I love its flexibility, its instant gratification, its geographic indifference. I love that it doesn’t hold a grudge against me for writing only a single sentence the same way a physical piece of paper accuses me with its very blankness. Fill me! screams the paper, regardless of whether I have anything meaningful left to say. I love the way email lends itself to conversations rather than reports and updates. I love the speed and agility it gives me to get things done.

And I hate it. I hate the barrage of unsolicited messages that assaults my inbox every day, every hour. I hate sifting through the junk to find the one important message I need to answer RIGHT NOW. I hate the way people or companies I don’t know invade my space when whatever they’re trying to sell has no relevance to my daily routine. Make. It. Stop.

Wait.

I can make it stop, or most of it anyway. Companies aren’t allowed to keep people on their email lists who don’t want to be there. It’s against the law. Violations can carry hefty fines, so the legit businesses are good about following the rules. They have to provide a way to unsubscribe in every one of those commercial emails they send.

That means that I have the power to stop them. Then why, oh why, have I let this keep happening? Even after reading a post from a fellow blogger about clearing her electronic clutter, I still didn’t take action for weeks. Quite simply, it was easier to simply hit delete every time I received an unwanted email than to open it, scroll to the bottom, and click unsubscribe. Well, easier in the moment, but not in the long run.

For the last few days, I’ve been on a campaign to rationalize my inbox. Although there may be some perverted sense of self-importance to being able to say (with a sigh), Ugh, I had to sift through over 200 emails today, it’s not worth the time wasted on the junk. Besides that, everyone knows that 85% of those 200 emails are junk anyway.

Even though it takes a (tiny) bit more time to do the unsubscribe dance, let me tell you, it’s worth it. Several dozen (a hundred?) unsubscribes later, I find myself less distracted by junk and better able to focus on the stuff that matters. I can go back to loving email. Has it really been that simple all along?

The power is yours; use it wisely. *She said with a wink.*

Trust the technology

An old friend reminded me yesterday of a particularly annoying habit that seems to have become pervasive: following up on emails. I’m not talking about the kind of follow-up that provides additional information or seeks an answer after a prolonged period of unresponsiveness. I’m talking about the guy who pokes his head in your door seconds after you hear your computer chime, saying, “Hey, did you get my email?”

Or the woman who calls and says, “I just sent you an email. Let me know when you get it.”

Or the co-worker who stops by the minute you return from a meeting and, while your hand is still hovering over your mouse, says, “Hey, I know you probably haven’t seen it yet, but I just sent you an email about [fill in the blank] and here’s what it says. What do you think?”

As my friend put it, “Unless the server is down for an extended period of time, I got your email!

Sure, servers can fail or spam filters can suck out the unlucky few, but chances are that if you know me well enough to ask about your email, we’ve probably exchanged electronic messages in the past so 1) we’ve proven the server works and 2) you’re probably in my address book so you can stop worrying about the spam filter. Trust the technology and give me a chance to respond.

If you’re going to follow-up with a phone call or a visit to my office anyway, then don’t waste your time with the email in the first place. Unless you’re my mother. Then you can do what you want.

P.S. If you come to me asking because you really need a response and can’t wait, try phrasing it that way. Hey, I know you’ve been busy, but I’m up against a deadline and really need an answer on this one. Will you take a peek at my email and let me know what you think?