Email Bankruptcy

On Sunday night I sat down at the dinner table after my family headed upstairs and I spent three hours cleaning out my email inbox. When I started I had over 1200 unread non-spam emails. Three hours later I had the number down to 800 and I was wiped out. I went to bed and decided to declare email bankruptcy.

From early April to the first week of May, the number of unread emails in my inbox grew from a manageable hundred to an unmanageable thousand. There wasn't one event that precipitated this situation, it was a number of situations. This happens to me fairly regularly.

Here's how I declare email bankruptcy: I have a list of about thirty people who I email with regularly and who are my most important email relationships. I use two web services, Gist and Etacts, to tell me who these people are. Both are useful. I then do gmail searches on their names and make sure that I have no unread and unarchived emails from them. It would be great if one or both of these services could auto-generate a gmail search on all thirty addresses for me. It would be even better if gmail had this feature built into the service.

Once I have made sure I've read and answered all emails from my thirty most important email relationships, I select all and hit archive. It is a tremendously satisfying feeling.

I am sorry if you sent me an email in the past five weeks and I did not respond. There are over 800 emails like that and so you are not alone. If it is important that I see your email, please email me again.

Longtime readers know that I struggle with email. I hate it but I cannot operate without it. I have gotten hundreds of suggestions on how to become more efficient with email and I have adopted many of them. But the more efficient I get with email, the more of it that comes in. 

My friend Stu Roseman is hacking together yet another web service to make email easier and I was testing it last week. He was seeing my email flow because of that and at one point he sent me an email which said "I am in awe that you can handle this amount of mail."

I am not in awe, I am in pain. And it is a pain that never goes away. That's email and that's why I am yet again bankrupt.