Lessons From Clearing Out My Unread Emails

Is it normal to have 20,000+ unread emails? Probably not, but it’s the situation I find myself in after adding up all the unread emails I have over 3 different email addresses (excluding my work email, that one rarely exceeds a few hundred unreads).

Having that many unread emails is not a big problem as I can just mark them all as read. The problem is that they create a lot of digital clutter, especially since most of them are newsletters and expired-and-no-longer-relevant emails that I need to clear out. Of course, I should have no issues marking everything as read and calling it a day, right?

In reality, things played out a bit differently. The fear of missing out meant that I was constantly filtering the unread emails by sender and manually marking them as read after glancing through the subject line, just in case there’s anything important. In the end, what could’ve been done in 5 minutes took away my Saturday afternoon instead. Such is life, but in exchange, I’ve learned a few not-so-valuable lessons along the way.

  1. In hindsight, I should’ve just marked everything as read and be done with it.
  2. Old emails expire, any unread emails older than a few months or a year can generally be marked as read without worrying too much.
  3. About 95% of these unread emails are newsletters, the remaining 5% are mostly notifications, calendar reminders, and other stuff I actually care about.
  4. It seems like I’ve stopped using email to communicate with people a long time ago (excluding my work email).
  5. There is a big difference between how I use my personal email vs my work email. One is often neglected and checked sporadically, and the other is overused and checked way too often.
  6. Saving emails or newsletters to be read later generally doesn’t work, by the time you want to read them, more would’ve arrived and you might just end up overwhelmed.
  7. I need a strategy for email management, I have too many email addresses and they are all used for different purposes, i.e. mostly as logins for various online/offline accounts or services, and newsletters.
  8. If you received any newsletters you don’t plan to ever read or don’t want to read anymore, unsubscribe immediately.
  9. Some newsletters stop sending you emails if they detect you aren’t opening them, they do this via tracking pixels. While others don’t want you to stop sending you emails, so they make it hard for you to unsubscribe.
  10. I find myself wishing there was a way to receive newsletters via RSS feeds, and it turns out, there is!
  11. I wonder if there’s a better way to do all this, maybe this book might have some answers.
  12. It’s not just emails, I think we have way too many tools for communication in general.

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