Avoiding Email Bankruptcy

by francine Hardaway on March 27, 2008

Many of my friends admit that they are overwhelmed by the volume of email they get. Indeed, Forrester analyst Jeremiah Owyang has looked into this problem in his own blog.

The geekier ones have instituted a process they call “declaring email bankruptcy,” in which they simply delete everything in their inboxes when they get up to about 2500 unread messages. Then they just start over.

Far be it from me to advise anyone on whether or not to declare email bankruptcy.

But I can tell you that if you do, or if you want to avoid it, here are some tips:

1) Point all your email to a Gmail address. Google has the best spam filters on the planet. They even have instructions on how to set it up so your mail goes back and forth. Even if you did have to declare email bankruptcy in Outlook, let’s say, only one of your “entities”would be bankrupt.

2)Don’t read your Gmail spam filter after the first few weeks. The false positives will go away, and Gmail deletes the spam after 30 days anyway. Just chill.

3)When you get up in the morning or get to your desk (I do this from bed on a laptop, but you may be sane and wait till you get to work), open your Gmail account and “Select All.”

4)Deselect messages that need to be read and answered, or the ones that are absolute spam. Get rid of the rest.

5)You will probably start without about 47 messages. When you do the big delete, you will be reduced by about half. “Select all” once again.

6)Deselect what you want to read and answer. You are down by another half, at least in the beginning. After a while, you will be down to two or three spam messages each time you read.

7)You are now left with what you want to read and answer. Select all again. Deselect what you want to answer. You would be surprised how few these are.

8)Skim the ones you want to read or can just read the first two lines of. Most of this is BACN, a technical term for stuffl like the Southwest.com fare sale, or the Overstock.com free shipping offer. This isn’t exactly spam, but you don’t need to read it today or act on it unless you want to. Now delete those you have skimmed.

9) Now you are down to the half dozen to a dozen things you need to answer. Limit your answers to one sentence. If the answer requires more than a sentence, make a phone call.

10) Archive only the email you answer.

Don’t ask me how I arrived at this system; I backed into it after years of experience. I am unwilling to declare any kind of bankruptcy, so I’ve figured out a lot of workarounds during my life :-)

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: