Should We Declare E-Mail Bankruptcy?

I’ve been listening to my computer die.

Lots of email

It’s been happening for a while.  But in the past few weeks, everything loads on the screen slower and slower.  At the same time, I can hear the hard drive spinning slower and slower as well.

I’ve known it was going to happen for months. So on Black Friday last year, I got a smoking’ deal on a new desktop. 

It’s been sitting in my office ever since.  That’s OK, because it’s always a hassle to transfer the data from one computer to another, and the other one hadn’t died yet.  There was no urgency.

Now, it’s time. I’ve started the process. 

Setting up a new computer feels like a “new start.”  It’s a chance to do some spring cleaning – like vacuuming behind the couch once you’ve pulled it out in the middle of the room.  We get rid of those random files that clutter our desktop, reorganize files in folders, and change the background scene that’s been there for years.

But what about the hundreds of emails that fill our inboxes?

ILots of emailt’s like we don’t want to get rid of them, so we leave them there to deal with in the future.  But some of them have been there for years.  We don’t take care of them, so they just make us feel increasingly guilty.

I sat in a colleagues office a few months ago who felt helpless against her email.  There were important things in there, but she just didn’t have time to process them.

She said, “I’m seriously considering declaring email bankruptcy.”

“What does that look like?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” she said.  “Maybe getting rid of everything that’s more than a week or two old, and simply deleting the rest.”

“What’s the downside?” I asked?

“Well, I might miss something that was important.  But I don’t know what’s there anyways, so I won’t know what I’m missing.  If it’s really important, they’ll email me again.”

She was thinking about sending everyone an email to let them know what she was going to do.  Then, on a pre-announced date, she would make it happen.

Now, I work for a company that teaches seminars on (among other things) how to stay in control of your technology instead of being a victim of it.  There are a lot of options.

But this was a new one for me.  I’m not sure what I think about it.

So I thought I’d toss it out to you for input.

I’ve known people who have declared financial bankruptcy, and they’ve had mixed emotions – guilt and defeat coupled with relief and hope.  I’m wondering if doing it with email might be similar . . . ? 

What’s the downside?  What’s the upside? 

Would you do it?

We’d all love to hear your ideas.  Comment below, or under “Leave a comment” at the top under the title.  (Commenting seems to show up in different places, depending on how you’re viewing this).

Just don’t send me an email with your thoughts.  My inbox is already full . . .

  • Derek

    I like it! And every now and then do a version of it. I go through my inbox and wipe them out. FYI my safety net is my Trash folder that I don’t clean out for a while longer.

    I do like to keep emails, I have gone back a referenced things I needed, found old comments or whatever. So, it is useful to keep some of them.

    Hey, maybe this would start a trend. We are all to overrun with technology and this might free people up a bit and release some guilt of all those old emails that need attention. Shoot most of the time after a week or two (unless it is important or I am having a back and forth discussion with the person) I have forgotten that I ever sent the email in the first place.

    So this idea gets a thumbs up from me.

    • Sounds a little like archiving in Outlook. So, you’re putting it someplace other than your inbox, right? Which puts it out of mind for a while. Does it still make muffled cries from where you’ve stored it?

  • Patrick Yun

    Not sure how I feel about this. If you declare e-mail bankruptcy, you are going to cross a few–perhaps many–people who you owe e-mail currency. If you send out the ironic e-mail to tell them about the bankruptcy, I think you are likely to get a barrage of e-mail again wanting to collect from you.

    I will frequently just “lose the bill” and pay up when they send out a delinquency letter or the collection agency or a thug threatening to break my leg.

    • That’s true – maybe just do it without warning, and wait for Guido to show up at the door . . .