I’m Putting My Inbox On a Diet

I didn’t think electrons could be that heavy.

But my inbox has gotten bigger and bigger, and it’s weighing me down.

It didn’t happen overnight.  I remember when it was sleek and nimble.  Information would come in, be processed, and move on through.  It brought me messages from people I cared about, and let me sent my responses in return.  It was fast – sometimes almost immediate.

What an awesome tool!

But little by little, it began consuming electronic junk food. 

16183428_JunkEmailCan_xlargeFirst, it was recommendations from friends of sites I “absolutely had to visit.”  There I would see a blog post that was so good, I had to sign up for more – just in case another epic one appeared. 

Then those blogs had “guest posts” from other bloggers that enticed me to visit their site – and sign up for more freebies and information that would change my life.

By signing up and giving them my email, I didn’t even have to go look for the great information anymore; they offered home delivery, right in to my inbox.

Facebook started showing me shiny objects that I couldn’t resist.  All I had to do was “like” them, and they would send me a coupon for something free.  In return, they would drop by every day to show me more shiny objects that would change my life.

It was great.  All these people like me – they really like me!  If they didn’t, they wouldn’t try to get in touch with me so often. 

The blogs have been the most dangerous.  Somehow, those authors seemed to know exactly what I was going through – and put my feelings into words when I couldn’t.  How could they know me so well?

It’s been like renting a booth at Hometown Buffet and moving in.

Here’s the problem: My inbox started looking a little pudgy.  There were more messages than I could process easily, and it wasn’t the sleek tool I remembered.  Little love handles appeared as felt the weight of unread messages.  Soon there were dozens of messages; then hundreds; then thousands.

I added another email address for those non-personal messages, hoping it would help my inbox slim down.  But they both seemed to grow even faster.  My inbox became compulsive about consumption, snacking constantly on whatever was available.

I dreaded my inbox, and felt guilty.  Here was all this great stuff that I knew I needed to read “someday” — but that day never came.  Deleting those great posts felt like tossing fresh fried chicken in the trash.  “It’s not right to throw good food away, right?”

I also discovered I wasn’t alone.  Most people around me have a BMI (Basic Mail Index) that moved beyond “overweight” to “obese.”

So, how can we get our inbox back in shape?

  1. Use it for people you have a real relationship with.  You only have so much time.  If you give it to the wrong people, you steal it from the right people.
  2. Unsubscribe from the blogs that are interesting, but not essential (including this one, if it fits that category).  You won’t miss the great posts – people will be sharing those on Facebook and Twitter if they’re awesome.
  3. Don’t “like” everything you see on Facebook.  If you want the discount, “like” it, use the coupon, then “unlike” it.  A free burrito isn’t worth the mental weight of information overload.
  4. Calculate the emotional cost of e-clutter.  It’s not harmless; it’s heavy.

Hometown Buffet (or whatever all-you-can-eat version is in your area) is an awesome restaurant.  It’s a treat to visit occasionally, and enjoy the huge variety.

But it’s dangerous to live there.

So . . . move away from the dessert table, and nobody gets hurt . . .

What kind of shape is your inbox in?  Is it time for a trim?  Comment . . .

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Author of "People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them the Keys"

  • Clever and powerful! Love your way with words and the accompanying very meaningful message. And the use of your metaphors is awesome. I’m glad I’m not tempted to unsubscribe from your blog. But I have wondered why I feel so guilty when I push the “unsubscribe” button on so many things. It’s a machine that gets the message, after all. Maybe you could explore that. I’d love to hear and be strengthened to do more of that. Gotta slim down my inbox. 🙂