I, like so many people, spend an ungodly amount of time each day checking email. Every time my phone pings, I eagerly look at my inbox hoping to see the musings of a loved one. More likely, it’s the latest sale that the GAP wants to make sure I absolutely don’t miss.
Sadly, nobody sends me real emails anymore. Not since the days of AOL CDs aplenty have I received an electronic missive from a real human being whom I know. And yet, the email keeps coming.
The Radicati Group, Inc. projects that email users worldwide will reach roughly 4.3 billion in 2015. Who’s sending all that email? It’s not your wacky aunt forwarding racist cartoons, meaningless petitions and urban legends easily debunked on Snopes.com. According to Radicati, 80% of content marketers use email to blast consumers with Wall-E style “Try blue, it’s the new red!” bulletins.
Between all the advertising mailing lists we can’t recall signing up for, entreaties from Nigerian princes, and of course, our wacky racist aunts, can you blame us? Most people have at least three email addresses, which we need for work, to sign up on social networks and what have you. But we’ve have abandoned using email for actual communication in favor of texting, Facebook, Twitter or SnapChat.
It’s not the same. A picture with some text that’s available for three seconds will never capture the same spirit of an email written to you by your best friend, especially when you may not be able to see that friend as often as you’d like. Social media offers are fast, quick communication and get the job done, but they detract from the very essence of why we communicate; to form and nurture a connection.
Let’s put a stop to the spam and reclaim our inboxes as spaces for personal communication.
First, Face Your Mess
If your inbox looks like mine, an episode of Hoarders but with way less mummified cats, then you know the feeling of doom associated with wading through thousands of messages that are there lingering for that day you decide you’re eventually going to read them or file them.
Fortunately for all of us (mostly me) there are lots of ways to do this as efficiently and pain free as possible.
Unsubscribe from the lists. You can hit each one list by list or use a nifty and fast free service like unroll.me to do it for you. They’ll assist you in deleting (or keeping) the email lists that you’re currently subscribed to faster than the Grinch can steal the last can of Who Hash.
Make like a Brita and filter it. Depending on your email client of choice there should be options for filtering mail as it comes at you, thus keeping your inbox free of clutter and as organized as I wish my closets were. Make sure to check out the help section to see what’s available.
Consolidate it. With nearly everyone having multiple email addresses, it’s cumbersome to check each and every single account. Slingshot your mail to one centralized account for easier organization and to save time. Check to see what type of POP settings your client of choice offers and whether or not it’s a free service.
Delete it. Do you really need to keep it? Will you refer back to it? Have you looked at it in the last eight months? Is it a receipt from 10 years ago? Sure, there are some emails that everyone keeps to reflect on in later years, but chances are you don’t really need it any longer. Make like Elsa and “let it go!”
Now, Think of Something Cool and Tell Him I Said It
Now that your email is completely organized, junk free and has that new inbox smell, it’s time to fill it with things you actually want to read. Here are some ideas to get you started.
Start with conscious emailing. When in doubt, just email people pictures of your children or pets. (People LOVE to see other people’s children and pets, trust me.) Better yet, write an email. Maybe your grandmother is as tech savy and awesome as mine is.
How about a significant other who would love to receive details about your life that you forget get to share at the dinner table? Perhaps your best friend lives on the other side of the country and going to get coffee and catching up just isn’t in the cards. Whomever you want to connect with, ditch WhatsApp and KiK and sit down at the keyboard.
Join an email subscription featuring content that you actually want to read. Websites like Dailylit.com provide one chapter a day from a wide variety of book titles. They’ll give you something to look forward to everyday and cross that resolution off your list to read more all in one free swoop.
Whichever tools you use to bleach your inbox and however you decide to take back control, making any sort of positive change in communication style is a job well done. And now that you’ve sent out dazzling emails to everyone in your address book, it’s time to sit back, relax and wait for the soft ping to let you know ‘You’ve Got Mail!’
Lead image by Mike Licht