Declutter your Email Inbox – Reducing your Digital Footprint
For anyone thats read the Marie Kondo book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and many of the other countless adaptations that have sprung up you will suddenly feel compelled to declutter your house. (Caution: a lot of the authors of these so called Japanese minimalism books aren’t Japanese and are just riding the wave)
Which is great and all. But have you ever thought about cleaning your digital life? We’re constantly on our phones and laptops each day, with a (sometimes unintended) digital footprint. The amount of email you get in your mailbox, be it work or personal email, is in the hundreds, thousands, or even more! Could there be a possibility to declutter your digital world, starting from email?
I don’t get the minimalists that live in a shoebox with only a futon, yet have a super large digital footprint on the internet. They probably also have a hundred thousand emails queued up to read in Outlook.
Why should i declutter my email?
Firstly, there are a number of reasons why doing so could be a good idea
- The news for the past 5 or so years has been reporting on data breaches from nation state actors such as China, Russia, and the United States. Your data should be private, and though we rely on organisations to protect our data, chances are they won’t and you need to exercise some caution in doing so.
- Facebook, and companies that integrate into Facebook, Google, and other internet giants have been found to be abusing their access to your digital data. Again, we expect companies to do right by us, but of course they are there to make money at the end of the day
- Decluttering. The less shit you see in your inbox, the less you will feel inclined to pop open gmail, outlook, and have a flick through your email.
I’ve found myself at times looking at my phone for no real good reason. I contrast my past when i first started working where we didn’t really have internet connected phones just yet (Sony Walkman phone was the best!) to how i behave now. Standing idle in a lift is an excuse to look at your phone. Sitting on the train or bus to work is a fantastic excuse to look at your phone. Even waiting in a queue for the morning coffee is an excuse to unlock your screen and swipe around. Only going back 8-9 years ago, we had to just stand or sit there, or *gasp* strike a conversation with the person next to you.
Declutter your Inbox
Thus began my journey to clean up my inbox. Now this is something a little harder than applying the Konmari method because you cant actually see everything in a pile in front of you. Rather you need to search for it.
I use Gmail, which is powered by the Google search engine technology. Double edged sword by using Google your mail is probably scanned by Google for useful information to sell back to you in the form of ads. I guess you win some you lose some right.
What worked for me to declutter was to
- Backup any emails and attachments from important milestones in my life. For me that was really contractual things like purchases for my home, legal documents, work contracts, etc.
- Understand the email i was getting my reviewing pages of it under each category. Browse though to make sure u have a rough idea of whats in it
- Mass delete emails older than a certain year. I figured that nothing before 3 years ago was really of any use. But i did have a quick browse through to check. (Tip: use the search string before:20XX)
- Keep a list of all mass mailer marketing emails i was receiving. For me this was LinkedIn, Meetup, Facebook under the Social category. Qoo10, Lazada, Zalora, Asos, Nike for Promotions. Start to unsubscribe to each and every one so that you do not receive these things after the fact. Some of these motherfuckers will not actually do anything with your unsubscribe notifications, so you do need to resort to blocking them.
- Fortunately Gmail splits your email into Primary, Social, Promotions and Updates. I found that Social and Promotions is generally just crap like Facebook or LinkedIn updates, and sales emails from Zalora and Qoo10, so afterwards i just emptied out the whole folder. Anything that comes in periodically you can unsubscribe manually
- Search for the word “unsubscribe”. Generally thats a marketing promotion, and you can delete and unsubscribe from those
- Delete any emails i sent to myself from a work email. Generally those things were temporary notes to myself
- I generally do not like to mark things as spam within Gmail. That just means it goes to your Spam folder, which i also click on from time to time!
I just figure that the less noise you have in your life (digital or physically tangible), the more time you have to focus on more productive things, or even just to chill out.
It is a really iterative process, and maybe one day ill get there. But for now, ill just keep deleting