Three principles for a pleasant inbox

I open 100% of the (non-spam) emails I get, and enjoy doing so. Here’s how, and why.

1. One inbox to rule them all

Pretty much as soon as Gmail debuted the Promotions and Social tabs I turned them off, leaving me with a single inbox that almost always has close to zero emails.

I understand the purpose of tabs, and more power to you if they benefit you. As I see it, all they do is snag emails that should go to the main inbox, multiply the work of managing email, and promote complacency and/or overwhelm. Especially for people—my wife being one of them—with 8,437 unread emails or some such unholy number.

2. Unsubscribe, unfriend, unfollow

I don’t get that much email to start with because I subscribe to only what I actually read and what provides consistent value. Everything else: unsubscribe. Without mercy or cessation.

And I say that as someone who does email marketing for a living!

Of course I want lots of subscribers and high open rates, both for my professional newsletters and personal one. But as an email recipient I’m very discerning about whom I let into my digital home, just like my physical home. (It helps that I’m not famous or otherwise destined to be unwillingly bombarded with emails.) Email senders need to earn their visits.

This principle also applies to social media. On the Big Three (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), I relentlessly unfriend and unfollow enough (and turn off email notifications) to render my feeds pleasantly quiet and focused on what I actually want to see.

3. Actual people > algorithms

I use an RSS reader (Feedly for over a decade now) to follow most of the newsletters I’d otherwise be getting as emails. Combined with other blogs and sites of interest, it’s become my favorite digital destination—my own little curated corner of the internet. I call it my “fun feed” because it’s always a pleasure to peruse, probably because it consists of actual people, not algorithms.

Whatever RSS service you choose, find sources that offer value and perspective from outside the frenzied news cycles of social media.


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