At last count, my Gmail had 39,216 unread messages in it.  I am currently using 32% of my free allocated space.  And I have absolutely no plans to do anything about this.

Yesterday, on a car ride home from a wonderful Sunday outing, one of my former work colleagues was explaining his system for managing his email.  He insisted that everyone who works for him must also have a system to manage their email–that otherwise, nothing can get done. I could not disagree more.

My email “system” goes as follows: if the email is important, I read it. If it is trash or unimportant, I ignore it.

Deleting an email I don’t need to respond to takes time. Ignoring it costs nothing. Gmail has a rich, fast search capability. If I need to track something down, I can. The noise doesn’t matter.  Unsubscribing from lists I don’t care about (like Banana Republic’s mailing list they fire out weekly or more) is more time consuming than either ignoring the mails, or setting them to spam.

And I don’t worry about missing things, because I am constantly checking my iPhone for new messages.  Mobility has enabled me to avoid missing important missives. If I need to respond to an email but don’t want to do it right away, if it’s important enough, I will remember to do it, or I will put it on a To Do list. If it’s not important enough, I don’t need to reply. And if it IS important, and I do miss it, someone will call me. Or @me. Or otherwise track me down.

Time is my commodity. Managing my email is a waste of resources. Search, and forget.

One Response to “Managing your Email is a Waste of Time”  

  1. 1 Rob

    I worked this way at ML, but always had a slight tinge of guilt (like the same guilt you get everytime you look at that big pile of unopened bank statements that you really should get around to filing).

    I got around the guilt problem by periodically going through the whole inbox deleting stuff – but that task gets more daunting the longer you leave it, which makes you feel progressively more guilty.

    Now I have another solution – do as you say (ignoring stuff) the whole week, and when you get 20 mins on a Sunday afternoon, fire up the BlackBerry and file anything useful that’s completed, delete anything non-useful. (As an aside, I find the BB’s filing UI is far better than driving Outlook with a mouse). Now I don’t get guilty.

    However, I often can’t be bothered with the 20 mins’ work. So it becomes 40 mins the following Sunday. Or 60 mins the Sunday afterwards, etc. Whatever. As you say, it doesn’t stop me working: LookOut (pre-Microsoft crippling) is awesome, and efficient searching is the key to being able to work just as quickly with a messy inbox as with a neat one.

    All that happens when I’m four or five Sundays in is that I have a tinge of guilt. Perhaps I need to learn to live with it.

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