Over the years I have subscribed to a lot of email newsletters. And every year, usually between Christmas and New Years, I unsubscribe from a bunch of them in an attempt to gain control of my inbox.
Some of the subscriptions I definitely want to keep because they provide awesome and useful content. Others are just no longer of interest to me and these are the ones I eliminate from my inbox each year. But the vast majority of them are somewhere in between. I read them sometimes or at least think I might at some point. So I hold onto those subscriptions because I’m worried that if I unsubscribe I might miss something.
The problem is that each year these email subscriptions keep accumulating… to the point where my inbox had become completely unmanageable.
I tried auto filtering emails with labels and with some I even set them to automatically skip the inbox. The problem is I knew they were there and this placed them in the back of mind as something I needed to deal with. And of course reading all those newsletters is just not possible so I’m in a state of perpetual catch up. I also tried the new Gmail tabbed format but I didn’t like it. I reverted back to my old system.
So my emails kept piling up.
I’ve been using Gmail’s priority inbox which places important and unread emails at the top, followed by starred messages and then everything else at the bottom.
My important and unread section was fairly manageable but I was spending far too much time keeping it that way.
The starred messages were always loaded with newsletters, promo offers and correspondence that I may want to follow up on or read later. And the everything else category had hundreds of emails a day.
I ended up spending far too much time managing my email and it created a constant drain on my attention. It is difficult to truly focus on work when you have unfinished business in your email inbox. In the book Getting Things Done, David Allen refers to Open Loops and believes that they are the enemy to productivity. I’ve read the book and I understand the concepts. But I still found it challenging to implement the systems and minimise my inbox because I was basically an email subscription pack rat. I couldn’t let go because I might miss something.
I thought I had subscribed to dozens of newsletters ranging from business, internet marketing, social media, podcasting, natural health and god knows what else. I thought it was dozens but I found out it was much, much more.
I was reading Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive income blog where he featured the top web apps he can’t live without. The standout app on this list for me is Unroll.me. This app detects all your email subscriptions and compiles them for you in a list. You can then unsubscribe from as many as you want with one click. Awesome! The ones you don’t want to unsubscribe from can be left in your inbox or you can add them to your UnRoll.me roundup and get them delivered in one summary email.
I can nuke the easy ones from the first category with one click… the ones I am interested in but don’t read often I can put in the roundup and open one email to scan the headlines and see if I want to read any of them… but they won’t clog my email inbox and create this massive amount of work.
This app will instantly make your email experience cleaner and more manageable. You will feel so much better about your email inbox after using this app.
Take a look at the screen shot of my inbox from a couple of months ago before I implemented unroll.me.
19 messages are important and unread. 1130 messages are starred (meaning I should be taking action on these messages). YIKES. And 1580 messages in the everything else category.
Every time I opened my inbox it actually caused a stress response. It was overwhelming trying to sort and prioritize and scan emails that might be useful. And by the time I found the content I want / need I was burned out and maybe would put it off by starring it…
Steve Dotto, Canadian Tech legend, joined Bob Garlick and myself on Maven Interviews recently to talk about technology and personal productivity. Steve said that technology, as good as it is, quite often causes us to be less productive instead of more productive. He gives us some productivity tips in this Maven episode and since then has released a new online course on mastering your inbox.
One of Steve’s driving points was that our email inbox has become a burden. Instead of being excited about getting new email we dread it. The email inbox has become a never ending stream of work and stress. Steve suggests a number of apps and solutions that help and I’m sure UnRoll.me is probably already on his new list.
Now, even months later I’m completely on top of my inbox. Check out the screen shot of my inbox today.
No emails in important and unread, 25 starred messages and only 15 in Everything else! Wow… what a difference.
I eliminated most of the clutter in my inbox and I still have a lot of email subscriptions coming in. But I can handle them. I’m even thinking of streamlining my inbox further with another go at the unroll.me app. Just like sending all the clothes you don’t wear regularly to the donation bin, clearing out all your newsletter subscriptions cleans out all the clutter in your inbox and allows you to focus time and energy on more important things.
I’m a fan!