One bite at a time together: Streamline your e-mail (project 27)

Are you working through Tsh’s ebook One Bite at a Time yet? I’m tracking my progress through the very practical (and manageable!) tasks monthly through this series. The projects aren’t chronological and you can do them in any order, so feel free to start now! You can buy the book here for just $5!

For lots of people, e-mail is a beast with a never-ending bottom.  Like the bottomless fries at some restaurants, only not nearly as salty delicious. 

I would imagine that Tsh’s inbox, with a variety of blogs to manage and books to write, would probably make most of us pass out on first glance.  But for the rest of us, with a more average number of unread emails, this project may not seem all that important to tackle.  Or is it?

As a blogger, I probably average about fifty emails per day.  Of those, twenty are all manner of advertisements, sale announcements, and newsletters that I somehow subscribed to for whatever reason and never actually read. 

While it doesn’t seem to take all that long to simply delete those Labor Day Sale emails from your local department store, the truth is that those few seconds add up – especially around the holidays when everyone and their mother is having a sale, a clearance blow out, or a contest of some sort. 

And now, during campaign season, local politicians have conjured up my email address and love to send me random messages with giant photos of themselves.  No, thank you.

I loved Tsh’s suggestion to unsubscribe at will.  It actually became a game of sorts…how many subscriptions could I opt out of in a day?  It only took a few seconds to scroll to the bottom of the email and go through the one or two steps needed to unsubscribe. 

Now, I not only get fewer emails daily, but I spend less time sorting through what is actually important, and what is little more than digital junk mail.  For those of you bemoaning that you might miss out on sales and great pricing, keep in mind that sometimes buying something 60% off means paying 40% for something you probably didn’t need in the first place. 

Besides, a quick Google search can typically yield coupon codes when you actually need it.  You don’t need to be bombarded with dozens of emails throughout the year just for the one or two times you actually shop at said establishment.

If you are a larger blogger and/or business owner (handmade biz owners, that includes you!), you might be pining for the days when you only had 50 emails in your box daily.  My one piece of advice: hire a virtual assistant. 

Your time is far too valuable to be answering “Do you take custom orders?” questions for the 187th time this week.  I actually wrote an ebook about hiring bloggy help.  Do it.  You can thank me later.

But even after unsubscribing with glee, my biggest problem with emails came when I got my first smart phone.  What was supposed to make my life easier by having everything at my fingertips, actually turned out to be my biggest faux pas. 

Let me explain: I’m standing in line at Target (again).  For reasons unbeknownst to me, I decide that’s a great time to check my inbox.  I read an email and quickly realize that it warrants a response longer than the 2 sentences I’m willing to type out on my phone screen.  I hit the lock screen button, slip my phone back into my purse, and make a mental note to get back to that email when I’m at a desktop later that day.

And then more emails come in.

And the email I intended to respond to gets buried.  And I forget all about it…until, of course, 3 a.m. when I’m feeding the baby…but that’s no time to be responding to emails, so I make a mental note to respond in the morning.  You know, when the sun is out.  And then…you know where this is going, right?  I forget, and so continues the vicious cycle.

Photo by Dell

For me, the biggest take away on this project was simply to check email when I would actually be able to take action if need be.  Was anything really that important that I had to read it while I waited to pay for my paper towels and melamine bowl set?  No.  Because if it was…my smartphone would have rung.  Out loud.  With a live person on the other end of it.  Weird.

Instead, I just surf my instagram feed in the checkout line.  Now that’s some important stuff.

Do you struggle with email? Do you do the same thing with your smartphone? Are you planning on unsubscribing with abandon?


Jeannett Gibson is a mom to four and wife to one who loves color and believes in story. She loves to tell you hers and wants to hear yours, too...because there is really no sense in wasting our suffering or not sharing in each other's joy. She blogs, fund raises, and sometimes even gets her crafty pants on at Life Rearranged.

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  1. So true, I get myself into so much trouble doing the ‘quick look and plan to respond later’ thing. I usually end up forgetting to respond at all as the email is no longer highlighted as new. Great article and I will start on an unsubscribe campaign.

  2. Love love LOVE the cartoon and flow chart! So apt! I have taken our recent move from the U.S. as a chance to declutter my inbox. I try to unsubscribe from at least one list per day. This post is spot on and so helpful to my action plan.

    Thanks for the encouragement!

  3. Thank you for the ideas, I definately had to opt out some newsletters and mails.

  4. I signed up for a small business marketing newsletter a few weeks ago. Since then I have been getting 2 to 5 emails a day from this company (buy this, take this class, etc.) This is not how I want to market my business or be marketed to. I finally had to unsubscribe from the newsletter which sent me on an unsubscribe frenzy through my entire inbox. Hitting unsubscribe actually gives me a sense of relief.

  5. I certainly have friends who could use that flowchart. It would be good if it was set as an auto pop-up whenever someone opens their mail program and/or FB profile… =)


    You said “Was anything really that important that I had to read it while I waited to pay for my paper towels and melamine bowl set? No. Because if it was…my smartphone would have rung. Out loud. With a live person on the other end of it. Weird.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!!

  7. I totally relate to the email problems brought about by the smart phone! And that the solution is obviously to check out Instagram instead.

    Thanks for the wise words, Jeanett.

  8. I have no smartphone so I have to go to an actual physical computer to check email. 🙂 I do my best only to check email a few times a day when I have time to respond. But it does get tempting to check constantly.

  9. Oh, the problems of the privaledged. I’m grateful for all of it.

  10. I started unsubscribing a couple months ago. I never realized how many pointless newsletters I was getting just because I found one article one time that I wanted 🙂 I do obsessively check my e-mail though, hoping for something meaningful. Much the same way I used to watch my mailbox looking for something other than junk mail 🙂

  11. liza lee grace says:

    I always have unsubscribed with abandon. I’m constantly bombarded with emails from companies that I’ve never subscribed to but somehow got my email address.

    There are a few stores that I do want coupons for, so I ended up setting up a new email address specifically for mailing lists. I only check it when I’m looking to buy something and know I would have a coupon in an email. It works well because for most of these, coupons are sent out weekly, so I know there will always be one. I don’t feel pressured to buy because I know I’ll get another one the next week.

    Also, I use filters like crazy! I have a folder for each place I get regular emails from and the mail goes straight in there. It makes life a lot easier for me!

  12. I am dealing with this problem right now… somehow I’d let my inbox pile up to 1200 messages. It was depressing.

    One thing I’ve had some luck with is … it’s an app that sorts your inbox, and then gives it to you according to sender, already checked off to be archived, should you wish it. You can then click “archive” and poof! all the messages from that particular newsletter are archived. It’s interesting to see who you biggest senders are. I think they offer other ways of analyzing it, too, but by sender has worked for me. Oh, and it’s free, thankfully. I’ve gotten my inbox down to 125!

  13. I love this article! So true, every word. I have a smart phone and I seriously just want my old phone back. To combat some of the tech-ickyness, I’ve started handwriting notes to family and friends. It’s helped slow things down, allows me to collect my thoughts, take a time out (and kids thought these were only for them) and you know…everyone really, really, loves getting the notes in the mail. It takes me all of 10 minutes once a week to sit down to write, address and stamp three letters. (i rotate who gets one…some I write every other week.) Heck, I like getting something nice in my real mailbox once in a while too. 🙂

  14. This post is too timely. I currently have close to 9000 emails in my inbox. So I’ve been unsubscribing like mad. But the good thing is I never lose emails I need to deal with. I’ve created an Action box and Pending Box that helps me keep those sorted out. And like a few other responders, I don’t have a “smart” phone – I prefer to spend more time observing when I’m away from the computer and thinking. Instead I check email when I’m working on my computer.
    Ah – final point: I always make a point of not responding to work-related emails outside of my published office hours (I work at home). Nothing like boundaries to give me more freedom.

  15. One of the ways we’ve been saving money in our home is to hold off on purchasing Smart Phones. I will say it makes life harder when traveling, however. But for now we are hanging in there and merely checking email while at home.

    An unsubscribing push is a great idea, however! You’ve motivated me.

  16. I need to unsubscribe with reckless abandon! Need to. In fact, I think I will right now!

  17. This is exactly what I needed! I’m off to unsubscribe!

  18. Absolutely agree about the smartphone point! I have personally been working on setting myself limitations on my smartphone use. I hate the idea that all they will remember from their early years is me on my phone.

  19. I LOVE the cartoon and the AWESOME flowchart! Now I can figure out whether or not to even check my email . . . and to know when to get off! 🙂 hee,hee

    I am one of those rare breeds that does not have a smartphone (too cheap to pay the data plan prices!) – and i rarely text as it would take me 5 minutes to type out one sentence on my phone!
    Sometimes I wish I could just quickly check my email without having to wait till I get home and log onto the computer (where I tend to get sucked into the eternal vortex known as the internet . . . as if i am waiting and expecting to randomly get an email saying I’ve won a million dollars, or find the cure for cancer . . . or something . . . . ). Maybe one day I’ll dive into the smartphone way of life . . . but for now . . .
    I think I need to conquer my addiction to checking my email all day long! 🙂
    I did put an autoresponder on my email this week telling people I was only checking it from 2-2:40 and again shortly before bedtime . . . but that hasn’t truly stopped me from taking a peek at other times. Maybe if my computer actually slapped my hands, or squirted lemon juice into my face . . . I might actually be trained to not get on as much . . . . maybe. . . . .

    Thanks for sharing this post! I enjoyed it!
    Now . . . I’m off to see if I won that million dollars! 🙂

  20. Oh I so need to streamline… my email has become a disaster I don’t even want to go there… all the genuine emails are buried beneath twitter and pinterest notifications… seriously I should take half an hour and just sort it out rather than forever try and capture emails that I have missed… thanks for the great post… think I definitely need to create an action box and a must get onto box… and probably a “just can’t face this ever” box as well!!!

  21. Love to know about all the coupons and freebies, so I keep two accounts. A junk e-mail account for all the newsletters, coupons, etc., and then my personal account. By keeping them separate, I keep my e-mail accounts in check. I have 13 pending e-mails and no unread messages in my personal account. Makes like manageable while using time wisely. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  22. What a great flow chart!! We should all have that posted above our computers. Made for a good belly laugh this morning. Thanks for the post.

  23. i WISH i only got 50 emails a day. I get far more than that in both my work and home email boxes. If i didn’t use a filter for junk mail and spam i’d be inundated (and I still am) with unwanted/unactionable mail. i’ll checkout your decision tree/process flow and see what you’ve proposed, but i have tried a LOT of methods. If unchecked my personal email escalates to 800 unread in less that 4 days (and that doesn’t include the shopping, junk, spam folders – fortunately those are usually just shift-grab them all- delete) for work, i’ve adopted a method that helps keep my focus, i filter all email that i’m cc’d on into a separate folder; my premise being if i’m cc’d then it’s generally FYI and I don’t have to do anything with it; that approach has backfired a couple of times, but works pretty well to keep my attention on what needs to be viewed first.

  24. smart ideas. love the cartoon and flowchart.

  25. Like the bottomless fries at some restaurants, only not nearly as salty delicious.

  26. Its my great pleasure to visit your blog and to enjoy your great posts here.

  27. I somehow subscribed to for whatever reason and never actually read

  28. Loved this … and timely. I have the One Bite at a Time book but sadly have done nothing with it 🙁 (except started to make things from scratch)

    I’m on an unsubscribe kick … and just recently removed Instagram AND Words With Friends from my phone. Less encouragement to even check my phone while I’m out.

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