April 28

Cleaning Up The Mailroom

Over the last decade or so – since we started Punch back in 2003 – the volume of mail coming into my inbox has steadily continued to grow in size year on year, from what now seemed to be very lightweight, to become the ever-demanding, resource-sapping monster that it is today.

Like many people, I have a love/hate relationship with email – I tend to get anywhere from a couple of hundred to up to five hundred or more mails per day on a heavy day. However, for me it remains a terrific tool for being able to delegate quickly, cutting out the need for superfluous meetings and providing a mechanism for tracking back to see the evolution of a conversation. Clearly CRM systems can handle that aspect of use, but then it’s the ease of access, whether by phone, webmail or desktop on many devices that makes email remain so attractive.

I’ve tried various routes to keeping it in check – having had my work and personal lives completely entangled for the last nine years, I made what was a fairly big step for me recently, to set up my first personal email account that I actually intended to use with family and friends. This enables me to keep a little space between work and home, particularly whilst on holidays. Whilst that’s great on holiday, enabling me to turn off work more fully than I could previously, the rest of the time, it just adds to the management burden of coping with email.

When someone leaves Punch, I tend to redirect their email to me, so not only do I get the benefit of my junk, I also get theirs. And over the course of time, that’s now quite a few email addresses. So, over Easter I snapped, and took the time to unsubscribe from every incoming mailer, newsletter and list-based mail that I was getting. It took a good deal of effort – and, one month later, I’m probably still only 80%/90% done – but I’ve managed to cut down the amount of incoming junk each night from upwards of 50+ junk mails to 5 or less. I also get less during each day of course. In short, I think I’ve cut down my incoming mail volume by at least a third – and perhaps by as much as a half.

The reason I’m bothering to share this is to convey how much better email is after a good clean up. Whilst it only takes a few seconds to register and delete each spam item, the effect that the clutter has in terms of preventing clear thought and concentration is massive. And that’s even with a decent spam filter in place.

In short, it’s no longer so necessary for me to cut out the superfluous to be able to identify the important – which means the whole process is less taxing. So, next time you’re having a physical desk clear out to clear up your physical workspace, I urge you to think about spending a bit of time doing the same to your email. A few days of effort can make a massive difference.

(NB – On this subject – here’s a post about TechCrunch’s MG Siegler and his attempts to give up email for a month).