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I unsubscribed from 100+ email newsletters. Here’s what I learned.

What is your relationship with your email? If you are like me — -it is complicated.

I love email

I get overwhelmed by email

And then there are the email newsletters

However, I am afforded another view as an email newsletter recipient.

Along my social entrepreneurship journey, I have subscribed to an email newsletter, or two, or over a hundred. It happens innocently enough, you attend an event or engage with a website and think “sure, why not subscribe — at least I’ll know the latest news. And delivered right to my inbox! What could be better?!” The convenience and feeling of connection of being part of a community and receiving news is thrilling. Each newsletter arrival is like a small tap on the shoulder, “psst, this just in” or “oh hello there, I have something to say” or “excuse me, I know you are doing that, but look at me,” or “no rush, I’ll just be hanging out here in bold font until you have a chance to check me out.” What started as a feeling of being part of an inner crowd of a website or initiative, when scaled, can feel like a futile attempt to win at Tetris when pieces are piling up faster than you can put them away.

And many listservs can be a bit deceiving — because they come in the form of follow-ups to a place you visit, something you purchased, or related to an event you attended. They may feel like account-related updates, but actually work like a listserv. Over time, these messages come to the inbox on equal footing with and often adjacent to business and client messages and can dilute focus.

Overwhelm is real for entrepreneurs

And feelings of overwhelm don’t happen at just one stage in the entrepreneurial journey — but they pivot and scale too. We have to be vigilant about actively taking steps to reduce feelings of overwhelm so we can focus on the things that matter most — including our work, physical and mental health, and our loved ones.

Hacking email overwhelm: how might we make email better

Over the past year I have polled my social media communities, asked friends, and tried different techniques to create a new strategy for organizing email. This has included incredibly helpful new practices and tools such as customizing labels and tabs in Google email, adding Streak as a CRM overlay to Google mail, and using Boomerang to help re-surface important messages.

These steps have been helpful as post-inbox measures. But if you forget to organize for a few days, your inbox can again fall into disarray, giving path for overwhelm to creep up once more. I realized, that the next level of ‘hacking’ would come from exploring pre-inbox solutions.

From all of this, I recently tried a radical life experiment

Save a few key email newsletters, I have been unsubscribing, to the tune of over 100 email newsletters.

Why and how I unsubscribed

I didn’t want my attempt to reduce overwhelm to create overwhelm or anxiety for content creators, nor make it feel like I don’t value their work.

So, when possible and appropriate, I unsubscribe and then under “reason” I select “other” and write a brief note such as the following:

“I value your work and content. Am simplifying my inbox to sidestep overwhelm : ) If there are any ways to collaborate or co-create, please don’t hesitate to reach out directly. Warm Regards, Neetal, www.innov8social.com"

I hope that giving an honest reason may provide the contextual explanation that being a mere statistic of an unsubscriber cannot convey.

What I learned from unsubscribing from 100+ newsletters

1. Email can be a form of digital clutter

Even when filtered, archived, and labeled, email newsletter can still be clutter

It’s like having a storage unit. You store things and you feel better because you’re organized. But you are paying for that space — not just with your pocketbook, but with the mental energy of still owning and taking care of things that you might not even need.

2. It’s okay to unsubscribe

3. No one will unsubscribe for you

Similarly, I realized that no one is going to magically unsubscribe us from our digital listservs when we are not around to receive them. Some listservs regularly prune and preen their lists, removing subscribers who do not open or who “don’t respond to this email” — but those that do are few and far between.

And that started weighing on me. If I feel overwhelmed with email clutter in my living days, it’s definitely not something I want to continue receiving after.

4. You can request/find the information in other ways

Extend that to email newsletters, and best practices would mean that web versions of email newsletters are also being distributed via social media — a practice that enables us to view, read, share, and enjoy — but not store, these important updates.

5. You might feel mentally and physically lighter, and ‘new’ again

6. Less email = more focus

7. You can always re-subscribe

In case you miss a newsletter, you can always re-subscribe. For me, I have a feeling that once I create a system in which I can regularly zero out my inbox, I can re-incorporate a few email newsletters without overwhelm.

8. There has to be a better way

Gmail introduced the concept of ‘snoozing’ emails which is a positive start. But, what about being able to automatically delete emails after a period of time?

For example, I would love the ability to tag email newsletters to automatically delete after a specified time. Though a post-inbox solution, the automatic deletion would ensure that they would not go the path of becoming digital clutter.

Additionally, this would be excellent for calendar reminder emails too — which are incredibly important prior to an event, but can lose nearly all value after the scheduled event.

We are evolving. So too can our communication solutions.

Curious to learn how you streamlined your inbox, create processes to reduce overwhelm, and zero out your inbox!

* The original post here is being updated to include community tips and suggestions for simplifying email

Neetal Parekh is the founder of Innov8social, author of 51 Questions on Social Entrepreneurship, host of The Impact Podcast, and convener of Impactathon®. She consults with social entrepreneurs, companies, and institutions to help them reach their impact potential. On Twitter and social media: @innov8social

Written by

founder, writer, person of many places. a motto: in all good things, #goanddo

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