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Why I Declared Email Bankruptcy… and 11 Tips for Reclaiming Your Inbox

As educators, we all have ideas and to do lists for what we would like to accomplish for summer. Beyond keeping my boys busy with 1,000+ apps, app-tivities, and educational crafts, I always have a “few” items on my own list I intend on completing (that many times I could either not complete during the school year or am trying to complete before the new school year to ensure a smooth run.)

Email Bankruptcy Pin

Now that I have set the stage for one of my to do’s… I will divulge a deep dark secret. Mine is that I am an email hoarder – avoider. I didn’t start out with this issue in 2007 (when I opened my Gmail account… my first personal email account after my AOL Mail account – I know you are judging me now) but slowly over the years, I signed up for more and more email subscriptions and newsletters and the task of unsubscribing to them all became overwhelming. In fact, the task of even sorting through the emails and filing and archiving them became insurmountable. I would grab a beverage and throw on a movie and plan to organize them and I would make it through 200-300 and feel no relief or sense of accomplishment as I knew there were 4,000 still awaiting my review.

No Choice But Email Bankruptcy

What Prompted You to Take the Plunge?

Everyone has a defining moment – a turning point if you will. While I would make excuses for my delayed responses and missed emails and felt inept when my husband asked me, “didn’t you get that email I forwarded you?”, I still held firm that I could eventually dig myself out of the email quick sand. Yesterday I found out that my boys’ principal is leaving the district and I immediately felt distraught – she is amazing. How did I now know about this? So I texted Carl Hooker to ask him about it? And he kindly told me that that email was sent out nine days ago. I mentioned that I had 8,000 unread emails (most unactionable) and he said “delete them”… he called it “email bankruptcy“.

“What? Delete them? Can I actually do that? Do I have permission to do that? Why has the idea never crossed my mind?” – Lisa Johnson

The idea stuck with me and felt liberating just to think about. I know I would be admitting defeat – that the great big email monster had conquered one more innocent victim. But somehow there was relief in starting over and employing new organizational and discriminating tactics that clearly I did not have in my arsenal in 2007.

Pros And Cons of Email Bankruptcy

So naturally before making the decision, I created a pros and cons list. The pros were way ahead of the cons I could think of at the time.

Email Bankruptcy Pros Cons

My mind was racing with anticipation. I thought about my closet.

“Could one function with a closet they couldn’t walk in to? One that gave them anxiety every time they opened the doors? Bursting with clothes they couldn’t find? Thousands of clothes they hadn’t worn in years? ” – Lisa Johnson

The answer was was clear. I keep a very organized closet and I go through clothes every few months and even sort them in to categories with ease (e.g. summer clothes, winter clothes, work clothes, casual clothes)… so why couldn’t I apply these principles to other parts of my life?

Before taking the plunge I posted my Pro/Con list and my quandary to both my personal Facebook and my TechChef one and was met with an overwhelming positive response:

  • “There is nothing in that inbox that is required for life” – Stephanie Wallace
  • “Archive Everything! Let it go!!! Let it go!! If you let go and it needed a response, people will email you again.” – Rafranz Davis
  • “You can also just delete chunks. Like delete everything over 6 months, then when you realize you are going to live, go to 4 months, then 2 months…” – Renee Hooker

So, I pondered it for the next twelve hours. I didn’t want to act too soon but I also know if I wasn’t proactive, I might get cold feet. I even did some research:

And then I took the plunge… and archived it below to support others that might also be on the verge of this life-changing decision.

11 Steps to Email Bankruptcy

Declaring Email Bankruptcy

Yes, I ultimately admit defeat but I also vow to never let it happen again. As some of you might be in my shoes… I thought I would share my process:

Vacation Responder

  • Set Up a Vacation Setting: I did this to notify people of what I was doing as well as to provide alternate ways to communicate with me that might be more effective and even efficient. My intent is to only leave the vacation responder on for 2-4 weeks so people know I am going through a transitional period.
  • Make a List: Make a list of any actionable emails that are still on your docket. Typically ones that haven’t been answered in the past week or so and make it a priority to answer them before the bankruptcy day.
  • Remove All Labels: I Removed All labels. I was a label hoarder (e.g. I had over 30 labels –  one for every district I worked with and sometimes one for each app developer). I was like that kid that put a different label on every document rather than sorting them into overarching simplistic labels. So first I deleted all of my labels.
  • Streamline Labels: Next, I streamlined my labels into the categories I receive email in most (e.g. Personal, TechChef4u, and TechChef4u Receipts). Personal is anything from my family and school-related to my boys. TechChef4u is anything involving my blog or communications and TechChef4u Receipts are any online purchase I have made relating to the business.
  • Limit Yourself to 2-3 Stars: I go star and label happy and then I never know what they mean when I mark them on an email so I forced myself to just choose two.
  • Set a Filter for Promotional Emails: So as I mentioned I have signed up for several accounts over the years (e.g. Shutterfly, Picaboo, Starbucks, Groupon, etc…) and I actually want to receive these emails but realistically I don’t have time to review them and they tend to be very distracting… So I set a filter for these types of emails to be directly archived in to my “Email Bankruptcy” folder. If I want to look for a sale or have a little money burning in my pocket, then I can open this folder up… but at least now I want be hammered with sales on books, Groupon deals, and what new item Starbucks has decided to add to the menu for summer.
  • Delete All Drafts: I wanted to start simple and dip my toe in this process so deleting all drafts made the most sense. Clearly, if I haven’t sent the email by now, I am never going to.
  • Delete All Spam Forever: This felt good! I did it one fell swoop.
  • Disable Labs: I had multiple labs that were cluttering my workspace and were entirely distracting. Less is more so I disabled any labs or widgets that I felt took away from my productivity at large.
  • Change Email Notifications: I use several apps and services like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Scoop.it, etc… that send me notifications when someone tags me or comments on something I write. While this info is helpful, it oftentimes distracts me from the task of actually answering emails when I am in my inbox. So I made sure to turn off those notifications as the comments will still be available within Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc when I log in to those accounts.
  • Change Theme: This was the final step before I took the plunge – kind of like getting a hair cut after a break up. I changed the theme to a custom background to celebrate my acknowledgement of failure and resolve to move past it.

Email Bankruptcy Loading

Once this was complete, there was nothing to do but delete. Well, I wasn’t quite ready for that just yet. I opted for the “put all of those clothes you don’t wear in a box and put them in the attic and/or garage and then give away anything you don’t need or access in the next 6 months to a year.”

No New Mail

I felt liberating. I selected ALL, labeled them with “Email Bankruptcy” and archived the whole lot of them. Strangely, my 8,438 was actually 14,725 but tis no matter. There is no reason that I should be using 7.42 GB of my 15 GB storage cap in my Gmail account. Anything that I most likely needed was either already downloaded from the attachments or curated somewhere else as a link.

How Do You Feel?

I do say I feel lighter. I know that is strange… but I do. I will tell you that I keep refreshing my inbox like a school girl that picks up the phone to see if it is still working or if anyone has called. Other than that, I feel pretty good but only time will tell 😉

I am hoping that this will be a fresh start but know that I have to make changes as well:

  • Cancel Subscriptions: As subscriptions roll in, I am unsubscribing from most of them.
  • Better Organization: I am hoping that the streamlined labelling and star system will help me quickly navigate through incoming emails. My hope is for improved productivity and communication.

Please Share… If you or someone you know suffers from email avoidance or email hoarder syndrome, know that this is a serious and real condition but there is treatment and support. No, but seriously, if this can help others realize they aren’t alone and they can reclaim their productivity and inbox… then I have succeeded in my mission. Also, if you or someone you know is a serious 0 inboxer, I would love to hear tips and strategies for this process.

SECRETS TO SUCCESS

Email Bankruptcy and Inbox 0 are just two strategies that relate to a much bigger picture. This is a board I have been working on secretly… and just made public.

“I realize that in ED Tech many times it is about troubleshooting and professional development… and sometimes we forget to educate the whole teacher… including skills for productivity and organization and overall general well being that can come from appropriate use of technology…” – Lisa Johnson

So without further ado… I bring you my Life Hacking Secrets to Success board that I will continue to update with topics like creativity, stress-management, people skills, tips for organization and much more…

Secrets to Success

 

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***Where Will TechChef Be Next?***

Miami Device PD Recap (used with Evernote) #TechChef4u #iPad #Evernote-2 copy

Contact TechChef4u to schedule Fall and Summer PD and Workshops: lisa.johnson@techchef4u.com or request booking here.

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