I recently returned from vacation with over 900 e-mails in my inbox. In today’s world that might make someone seem important, but a good chunk of these messages were unsolicited. Sure, I might have known the sender (or company), but I did not asked to be sent their list of upcoming events, special reports or their latest IT security/cloud solution. So I spent more than just a few minutes unsubscribing — in addition to deleting — the first morning back in the office. It felt like cleaning out a closet.
After all, as a former colleague quipped, “digital cleaning is the new physical cleaning.”
Though an easy, albeit obtrusive, solution, it is time-consuming to unsubscribe from unwanted messages, particularly from foreign companies in countries that don’t have enforced spam policies that never adhere to unsubscribe requests (hello, junk folder!). With a job requiring me to interact with many companies, which often includes the exchange of business cards, it can be a challenge to keep the e-mail deluge pristine. No one would eat off the (virtual) floor of my inbox.
It’s one thing to give your contact details to a person with the intention of possibly following up; it’s another thing altogether to become besieged with mails from a computer system that scanned your card.
As it takes less effort to casually delete an unwanted e-mail, that’s what I’ve usually done. I didn’t realize how many unsolicited messages I received until it piled up during a rare period of not checking my e-mail (I was out of the country and not authorized to take my Blackberry with me, admittedly a great way of ensuring that I truly disengaged during a vacation).
So what is a beleaguered inbox owner to do?
I’ve met people who boast that they “don’t do e-mail.” Unless you’re President Obama or have a personal assistant to tend to your messages, that’s not a satisfactory way of communicating in today’s world. It’s akin to not taking phone calls or reading letters. Speaking of which, perhaps it’s time to bring back the art of writing letters and/or talking. One reason many people suffer from e-mail fatigue is that we all contend with too many messages. But that’s a topic of a different blog.
So, in addition to dedicating a bit of time each week to culling your e-mail box and contacts, let’s brainstorm some solutions! How’s this for an entrepreneurial opportunity: business cards with a “do not send me impersonal messages/spam” QR code on them? Structuring e-mail addresses with embedded codes that will not allow them to be entered into a mass mailing system? Or self-customizable folder to direct all Constant Contact (and similar programs) messages to the junk folder unless otherwise commanded? A step beyond creating folders from specific senders/topics, this would recognize masse-mail systems.
There must be solutions out there. If so, please tell me! In the meantime, I’ll grapple with the problem that everyone else has: how to cope with the intimidating inbox of pending items. Or, of course, seek a personal assistant…
Aileen Nandi is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.