Time to Cut Back on Email Newsletters

New rule for self: If I’m subscribed to an email newsletter, and I didn’t feel inclined to read or shop from it in the last three to five issues, I’m unsubscribing.

The reason I need this rule is that I like subscriptions that pertain to my interests. Each of them are cool on their own. None of them are spam. They are harmless newsletters that I consider worthy to make it to my mailbox. (I’m encouraged to read newsletters that are consistently not spammy.)

Then the newsletters start piling up. I glance at any of them that I’ve not “read” about once a day. If today’s doesn’t interest me I’ll archive it quickly. If I found something of interest, I click on it and then archive the newsletter.

I do this almost every day with roughly 20 subscriptions. It takes me 3 seconds to process one email on average, so it would seem, on the surface, that I’m not killing time in my inbox.

Oh, but the mind-suck is much greater than those three seconds. Once I’m distracted by the newsletters my mind wanders. If it’s two or three newsletters then they are harmless. But the more I have, the more I’m distracted.

I find that by the time I realize what I’m doing twenty minutes later, all those newsletters together sent me on an Internet scavenger hunt with no apparent goal in mind. The newsletters, matched with my habitual weakness for distractions, leads to time-suck away from what I want to do.

If I have less in my mailbox, I will spend less time letting my mind wonder. I will hop in to look at a few newsletters that I find most beneficial, and get right back to work before my mind has drifted into daydreams and aimless Internet scavenger hunts.

At best, the worthy newsletters take less than two minutes to process. If they have especially interesting content to read or shop for then they may cause me to spend more than 10 minutes processing them. Either way, the fewer newsletters to read the better.

How does that Bible verse go? “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” (1 Cor. 6:12)

That’s what I have to avoid: letting email dominate me for no apparent reason. Doesn’t matter if the emails are harmless, or that they are related to my interest. If they cause me to squander precious time, they are the enemy.

And I need less enemies in my mailbox right now.

Joe Darnell

Joe is a UI and graphic designer with prior experience as the creative director for three media-based businesses. Joe’s passionate about web design and graphic design with about 15 years of experience in the media industry. Additionally, Joe is the host of the Top Brew and Techtonic podasts, both featured on iTunes.