End Your Dysfunctional Relationship With Junk Email

unsubscribe email checkingSeveral weeks ago, I had a realization: I was spending a lot of time deleting email. Every day, I seemed to get dozens of unwanted emails that I deleted unread. This wasn't pure spam. It was announcements from groups I was no longer part of, emails from companies I'd bought something from years ago, newsletters I'd wound up on somehow, and poorly targeted press releases. I decided to keep track of the number of such emails as I was deleting them one Friday. By the end of the day, I'd deleted 90 emails, unread. This seemed like a lot. Not because deleting took time (a few seconds per email at most). I realized that the bigger problem was that the high volume of emails meant I always had email when I checked. And that made me check more frequently than was probably wise.

So over the past few weeks I've undertaken what I'm calling "The Great Unsubscribe." Any email that I usually delete unread I have decided to, instead, open and follow the unsubscribe instructions. Most have been pretty clear about how to do this. I'm on a few foreign language newsletters (which I can't even read! Why are they emailing me??) that I haven't figured out, but I'm working on it. A few more aggressive emailers have had an unsubscribe link that doesn't work. The retailers make a pitch to keep you by informing you that you can get emails less often (once a week instead of every single day). In general, I haven't gone for that, though. I've just been unsubscribing away.

Slowly, the deluge is being reduced. A few of the daily email sites schedule things quite a few days ahead of time, so it's taken more than a week for the emails to stop. But when I woke up the past two mornings, rather than have 40-plus new emails, I have closer to 20.

Will the reduced volume make me more calm or productive? I have no idea. I have a post planned about how I think people are too obsessed with clutter in general. But deleting Victoria's Secret ads basically every single day was just draining. I'm glad to have that time back - even if it's only a few seconds.


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