Welcome to Week 2 of Email Month in the Tidy ’24 series!

First, since the inaugural Week 1 email, an absolute ton of new people have subscribed. The beginning of the year is clearly an excellent time to start tackling that digital chaos that’s been bugging you for a long time.

Fortunately, for the new readers who missed Week 1, I’ve got a Tidy ’24 Calendar page with links to all previous weekly material on the Tidy Bytes website. I’ll link to it in all Tidy ’24 emails going forward, but you can also bookmark it for quick access. The calendar page includes links to previous weeks (such as Email Week 1: Archive Everything) as well as some of the weekly and monthly topics coming soon to give you an idea of what to look forward to.

With that out of the way, and with all of you hopefully looking at a mostly empty inbox after archiving everything last week, we’re ready for Task #2! For a brief video discussing this week, watch me talk about it for a few minutes here:

Email Week 2: Unsubscribe Without Mercy

Whether you took the plunge and archived everything in your inbox last week or not, the most important step now is to eliminate as much as possible of what’s been coming in and creating all the chaos in the first place. Setting aside an enormous chunk of old email does little good if we immediately let it build up again.

Unsubscribing isn’t a novel or earth-shattering idea in the world of email management. But that’s why I added those other two words: “without mercy.” Whether you’ve gone through this process before or not, this week’s goal is to attack it afresh with extreme enthusiasm and motivation. Don’t leave anything that you don’t need.

Action Steps:

  1. Go to your inbox.
  2. Look at the messages that have arrived over the last week (or more, if you’re feeling ambitious).
  3. For every message that doesn’t add real, tangible, obvious value to your life, unsubscribe. You can always re-subscribe later if you miss it.

I realize Step #3 here is highly subjective and can be psychologically challenging for many reasons. Here are some examples of what I look for during this exercise:

  • Promotional emails from stores you rarely or never shop at
  • Newsletters for topics that no longer interest you
  • Resources that you always wish you had time to read but end up only adding stress and guilt over not reading them
  • Notification emails for events that are duplicated in apps that you use (social media, news, YouTube, etc.)
  • News publications that arrive multiple times a day (modify your subscription to get a single daily or weekly digest email!)

In short, ask yourself whether you would really be worse off if you stopped receiving any particular message. In many cases, the answer will be “no.”

Sometimes, finding the “unsubscribe” link is challenging, but it’s almost always near the bottom of the message, usually in a tiny font. Gmail makes it easy by putting an “Unsubscribe” link at the very top, near the sender–as long as the mailing list includes the necessary information behind the scenes (and not all do). If you have any trouble unsubscribing from something you want to get rid of, reply with a question to this email or reach out on this week’s Tidy Bytes Community Facebook group post.

How Does This Help?

Every email we receive increases our “cognitive load,” the quantity of stuff we must spend our precious and finite attention on. Sometimes, it’s only a tiny difference, but hundreds of tiny differences add up to a significant chunk of time. Remember, our inboxes are basically someone else’s to-do list. The more we let in, the more we have to act on–even if many of those actions are quick deletions.

We often want to hold onto email subscriptions even when we know they’re not doing much for us because we strongly feel that “just in case” emotion. “It’s just an email. It won’t hurt anything. I can delete it if I don’t need it. I don’t want to miss a good deal. I want to stay informed. After all, why not? Why shouldn’t I keep it?

(The nerdy/astute among you will recognize the above quote trailing off into the words that Bilbo Baggins used as the evil One Ring of Power tempted him near the beginning of the first Lord of the Rings story.)

You shouldn’t keep it because it’s wasting your time, energy, and attention. You have no obligation to stay on anyone’s mailing list. (Even this one!) Permit yourself to take your time back. Unless you know exactly how you’re getting value from a specific newsletter, publication, or marketing email, stop receiving it.

Who Does This Help?

You’re in for a real treat if you’ve never gone on an unsubscribing spree. It’s cathartic. Last year, I walked someone through unsubscribing from over a hundred mailing lists, and my goodness, what a difference that made! It truly was like turning off a firehose.

It’s easy to pick up one mailing list after another over months, years, or even decades. They creep in slowly, and without realizing it, we’re receiving more newsletters, ads, and other marketing material than we can shake a keyboard at.

I’m not trying to guilt anyone into unsubscribing just to get your numbers down. Email is a great tool, and subscriptions are a wonderful part of the email world. But it’s critical to review what you’ve signed up for regularly and confirm that you’re paying attention to what matters. Make sure you know why you’re getting all that email. If you don’t have a good reason, make it stop.

Who Does This NOT Help?

This won’t do much for you if you’re not on many mailing lists. Or, if you’ve reviewed your email subscriptions recently, another review right now will likely have only a small impact. (Also, good for you!)

Quick Review

Thanks again for joining Tidy ’24 at the beginning of the year! For Week 2, your task is to unsubscribe without mercy. Review all the emails you’ve received over the last week, identify everything that doesn’t need to be there, and then unsubscribe. If you have questions about this task or anything related to digital organization, reply to this email or comment on this week’s Tidy Bytes Community Facebook group post.

If you’re not already subscribed, make sure to join the weekly newsletter email list with the simple form below. You can also bookmark the Tidy ’24 Calendar page for a master list of every currently published Tidy ’24 topic.

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