Today I have been decluttering my email inboxes. Somehow I have allowed myself to accummulate 20,000 emails. Not kidding! I’ve read the majority of them, but hadn’t dispensed with them after the fact. In the process of buying lots of things inexpensively via Anjie’s list, I’ve been subscribed to many, many, MANY email newsletters. I took the time to unsubscribe myself from the emails today and made sure to delete and sort them according to the excellent strategy described on the Getting Things Done blog.
As I did so, I started to see similarities between dealing with emails and dealing with life.
1) Sometimes we have no idea how we’ve been “subscribed” to something.
Years ago, I somehow ended up being the treasurer and all-around bookkeeper for my investment club. I cannot even tell you how much stress I experienced as a result. I have never even balanced a checkbook! For those of you who are wondering, my Superman pays the bills. Like me, you may end up doing things that you have no business doing.
2) We have to intentionally unsubscribe.
I have been putting up with voluminous emails and just letting them sit or deleting them. Why? I suppose I thought they would catch the hint and stop showing up. They didn’t! The people and tasks in our lives that are not part of our mission are also unlikely to catch the hint. Mrs. Church will continue to call and ask you to make meals for the funeral luncheons even though you hate to cook and you’re constantly on the go. In order to stop the unwanteds, the unnecessaries, and the uninspiring from coming into our lives, we have to deliberately say “Sorry, but no thank you.”
3) We have to stay strong as we unsubscribe.
Almost every newsletter I unsubbed from today (I lost count several hours ago) wanted to make really, really sure I wanted to unsubscribe. Some of them really turned up the guilt. “We will miss you so terribly. If you change your mind, we’ll be here pining away for you.” On the other hand, most of my unsubscriptions were easier than I thought they would be. Pretty standard procedure–not emotional at all. When we say “no thank you” without justifying ourselves and apologizing several times, unsubscribing from the unwanteds in our lives is fairly easy. I once unsubbed from a newsletter and the woman who wrote it immediately contacted me demanding an explanation. That was uncomfortable! Sometimes we have to deal with discomfort, but most of the time, only a few clicks are required.
4) Unsubscribing from something good allows you to subscribe to what is best.
There were many newsletters that I unsubbed from that I actually like. But I don’t have time to read them. As I deleted and unsubbed like crazy, I found myself really reading the ones that are most meaningful to me. When I didn’t have so much email clutter, I could focus in on the keepers. What have you been missing out on in life because you’ve been so distracted by the so-so?
5) Re-subscribing is almost always an option.
Some newsletters have been harder than others for me to unsub from–just as some items I own are harder to declutter and some tasks harder to give up. What helps is remembering that I can easily resubscribe! If you give away a book you need, you can repurchase it. If you give up a volunteer job and you miss it, my guess is they’ll let you come back!