The Joy of Deleting

The following is a guest post by Missie Peters. Missie is a public relations specialist, a poet and an improviser. She’s also a friend of mine. Oh, and she also promises not to delete your email. You can read more about her over at her website and follow her on Twitter.

There are two kinds of people in the world – those who see a high inbox number and are delighted at the thought of unopened presents, and those who groan anticipating the coming drudgery. So you see the inbox as half-full or half-empty?

Every morning I open my inbox I have roughly 30 new, unread emails waiting for me. Except that most of them are news alerts (I work in public relations) – about 2 per cent of which have any relevance to me. So I start my day by clearing out the irrelevant emails and taking my inbox from 30+ unread emails to five and flagging the two that actually require a response and need to be dealt with immediately.

And it feels great.

Deleting emails gives you instanteous gratification – the lab rat release of endorphins from button pushing. It also helps you prune your workload – getting rid of the extra branches so you can reach the apples on the tree. And most importantly, it makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

I start work at 8:30. By 8:33 I can already cross “Tidy email inbox” off my list. I’ve already accomplished something today and I haven’t even started! What’s next? Bring it on and watch me knock it down! I’m a task-completing machine!

The key to my unbridled joy is to see deleting emails as a task, not a nuisance.

Some people have trouble with this part. I work in a large organization and at least once a month someone replies-all to an All Staff email complaining ‘that they hate getting all these generic emails because they clutter up their inbox’ the irony of which is not lost on any of us who received their reply-all.

But what I don’t get is why pressing the delete button is so difficult for these people that they’d rather write and send a whole email complaining about it? Man, life must be pretty tough for these disgruntled email hoarders.

So how can you find joy in your inbox?

1. Ignore the ‘unread’ number

This is a false representation of the amount of work you have in front of you. If you internalize “30 emails” you’ll start hyperventilating and probably go open your favourite blog to calm down – making you less productive.

2. Recognize chronic ‘filler’

Do you get daily newsletters from an industry association that you never need to read? Or notifications from a social network you rarely visit? Learn to recognize the junk emails so that at a glance you can determine how much of your inbox is filler.

3. Unsubscribe

If receiving that daily industry newsletter drives you up the wall, maybe it’s time to take 30 seconds and unsubscribe rather than continuing to delete it for two more years. Or go into your settings in Facebook and change your notifications so they stop dumping into your inbox every time you get an invite to your friend’s birthday party. Be proactive and you’ll find…wait for it… joy in completing the task.

Don’t go through life as an email hoarder, sifting through piles of useless emails. Instead, find joy in your delete button. Apply often and liberally. And you will approach your inbox with confidence instead of trepidation.

Happy deleting!

Photo credit: Delete (CC BY-NC 2.0)