Thursday, August 2, 2018

Confessions of an Email Hoarder (or Taming My Inbox)

In the past week I've been lucky to have the opportunity to work with Manaiakalani in the implementation of their Digital Fluency Intensives to upskill their teachers. I've travelled to Northland and Otaki on back to back days, and have thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Participating in running these trainings has been a great experience and has included the side effect of me starting to do some of the things that I learned about years ago when I did my Google Level 1 course and exam.

You see, I have a problem. Those who know me and sit beside me at conferences or summits often get a glimpse into this dark side of mine which can best be summed up with the following picture, which was taken a few days ago:

And I'll let you in on a little secret: this was AFTER I cleared out almost 5000 unread emails. There was once a time when I tried to keep on top of things, but once the number of unread emails got to 1000, everything sort of fell apart. To be fair, I have opened almost all personal emails to me, and anything important. Most of the emails that I've cleared have been newsletters that I never read, emails from booths I've visited at conferences, or newsfeeds from sites I signed up for at one point. Lately, I've been getting bombarded by all the Google Trainer emails (and emails from ISTE).

So how am I attacking this problem now? A few ways:

1) Using labels and filters to sort out which emails are important and to group them for easier sorting and reading. It's a colourful way to keep track of what I need to keep track of, and a very quick way of getting rid of the junk as it comes in.

2) Clearing the ads and things that aren't important. This has been pretty easy. On any given day I get a few handfuls of emails that may be useful, but probably aren't. I'm getting into the habit of opening these when I look at my email and deleting them if they're not useful. If it's a particularly useless email (or something I signed up to to get a t-shirt or something at a conference), I'm unsubscribing to the email. That will help me in the future not get so many emails. And when I find something I unsubscribe to, I go back and delete all the other emails from that service. It's been a big reason I cut out 5000 emails.

3) Not saving my emails to read. This seems like an obvious thing, but I'm still struggling with it. Often I feel like I need to be in the right frame of mind to read some of the cool ideas I get through email (especially from the robotics companies or the Google Innovator or Trainer groups). I have been reading as many of these as I can these days, and it's much better than reading some of the things I've been reading during breakfast or during other down times. I think part of this is that it's hard to digest lots of information. I'm working on ways to collate these ideas for future reference (which is helped by the labels) so that I can get a glimpse into the good ideas but then not feel overwhelmed by them.

I have made some progress and can report that the current situation looks like this:

So that's something, right.

I'm actually pretty curious myself about what the actual end date (or beginning date) of my emails is. I guess I could check, but it's kind of like a game to see if I can get there. If you've made it this far in reading this, maybe you have a guess as to the date (not just the year) of the oldest email I haven't read. I can't say I have a prize, but everyone likes to win something right? So if you have a guess, put it in the comments and when I do get there, I'll have a followup post and reveal the winner.

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