December 30, 2006

Email Amnesty for the New Year

Yesterday morning I had several dozen emails in my "Read Me" folder. These are messages that weren't urgent or even very important, but that I wanted to take a look at when I had the chance. Some of them had been in there for several months. You know the type--newsletters, mailing list messages that might contain something interesting, "FW: FW: RE: funny story"--that kind of stuff. After a quick glance to make sure there wasn't anything I'd miss, I trashed them all. It feels great. I'll do the same thing with the "Read Me" stack of papers on my desk at home when I get back from vacation. What is a new year for if not a time for fresh starts?

A more drastic measure that you may need to consider if you're reeaally behind is to declare email bankruptcy like this guy did:
Lawrence Lessig hit upon a novel tactic after spending 80 hours trying to clear out his backlogged inbox: surrender. "Bankruptcy is now my only option," he wrote in a mass message to his correspondence creditors. Here's how Lessig erased his debts and turned over a new leaf.

1) Collect the email addresses of everyone you haven't replied to. Paste them into the BCC field of a new message you'll send to yourself.

2) Write a polite note explaining your predicament. Apologize profusely - Lessig managed five mea culpas in as many paragraphs - and promise to keep up with your email in the future. Try to sound credible.

3) Ask for a resend of anything particularly pressing, and offer to give such messages special attention.

How about you? Any fresh starts in the new year? Feel free to share in the comments.

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