Goodbye Grumblings

Find the good

How I enjoy email without getting buried by information (sometimes)

At the end of a long, tiring day, I’m turning off lights and heading to my room to get ready for bed. I decide to check my email one last time, just in case there’s something important. Mmm, delicious anticipation. Then… a little reward when I see I’ve got new messages.

Sound familiar?

Like almost everyone I know, I’m intrigued and tempted by the mass of information and the many opportunities available on the internet. I know some people who behave as though they’re addicted to their devices. I don’t do that, of course. (Shush, Dragon! Don’t give away my secret dopamine addiction.)

This particular post isn’t a rant about how we all need to get off our phones and other computers. (Though I do believe that.) I really enjoy my pocket computer, which happens to have a phone in it. No, it’s about how I sometimes manage the information I invite into my personal electronic space.

Too much email treasure makes Grumblings cranky

I say sometimes, because email treasure comes to me in vast quantities or trickles, depending on how well I’m managing the flow at the time. I’m sharing my little story because maybe I’m not alone in this, and maybe someone has found a better way to manage the stuff.

I have much more information at my fingertips than I can ever use, even if I were to quit my job and spend all day online reading. That’s an understatement, and unoriginal, but thinking about it concretely is a powerful reminder for me.

I can never get caught up on the internet.

I come across so many intriguing and fascinating possibilities that I sometimes (okay, often) lose my sense of direction. What was I searching for? Why did I open up my email again? Oh yes, I was going to send an email. Instead, I hopped around all over the place and lost an hour.

I enjoy having content I’m interested in sent directly to me, so I don’t have to remember to visit my favourite sites to see if there’s anything new. Every once in a while (okay, too often) I get click happy. I hand over my email address so I can conveniently receive articles, ebooks and really useful tools right in my inbox.

I get heaps of treasure from strangers. Ideas, tips, techniques. Links to inspiring and useful writing. All sorts of ways to seize the moment, figure out my heart’s desire, achieve great things. These mingle with email messages from the real people in my life, the people with whom I choose to interact: family, friends, people in the Scouting community and freelance clients.

Sometimes I feel a little sad after checking my email. Then I realize that Ive scrolled through a whole bunch of new messages, many addressed to me, and not a single one of them is from a person who knows what I look like. Ouch!

For awhile, I keep working my way through the ever-increasing volume of email. Gradually I begin to feel pressured. I start to notice that the tone in some of the email really bugs me. I notice the psychology-based persuasion techniques being used on me. I feel clever for noticing, offended at being manipulated… and tempted by whatever great deal is being offered. What a dysfunctional relationship I have with my email!

Instead of seeing a new item in my inbox as something interesting, as a potential source of knowledge or enjoyment, I start to see it as another grab for my attention.

I perceive emails as rude and aggressive instead of refreshing and honest. I notice how they provoke a fear of missing out, how they imply that they know exactly what I need or want right now.

They disturb me the way someone would disturb me if I invited her in for tea and she turned around and tried to sell me something right in my own kitchen.

I start scrolling through the list of mail quickly, not opening messages. The implied sense of expectation, even obligation, that comes from some of the emails makes me want to avoid my inbox. And worst of all, I know that I signed up to receive all of those emails of my own free will.

When I start to feel like I don’t want to look at my email, I know it’s time to clean up my list of subscriptions.

I invited those emails in, and I can darn well uninvite them. I start going through my messages, unsubscribing to the ones that irritate me the most. I can be really efficient about it when I’m in a temper. And if I feel the least bit of temptation, the smallest whisper of fear of missing out, I remind myself that I can always google whatever it is.

The trick is to choose. Choose my goal and then choose tools that support it. Don’t let myself get sidetracked.

If I don’t decide how to spend the limited amount of time I want to allocate to reading email, then that time will be frittered away by people or companies who want my attention. What works for me is to cut them off as soon as I feel the demands outweigh the rewards.

Cue the energetic trumpet music! Once again, I’m taking back control of my inbox (and my time). To celebrate, I think I’ll go for a walk outside. It’s good for me.

How do you keep your email manageable? Do you do it manually? If you have a great tool that helps, share it in the comments or send me an email (susan at goodbyegrumblings.ca).

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About GrumblingSusan

Word lover. Story addict. Daydreamer. Optimist. Ottawan. Treehugger. Scouter.

2 Replies

  1. Kathleen

    Lovely – just what I needed to hear, and just who I wanted to hear from.
    Congratulations on breaking that quiet streak – I’m glad you’re back.

    1. GrumblingSusan

      Thank you! I’s lovely knowing you’re reading.

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