I’m fairly certain I’m not alone in getting a little overwhelmed by the sheer volume of messages arriving in my email inbox daily. I decided to take stock recently and make a mental note of the different sources for emails addressed to me on any given day. I discovered that nearly all of them were marketing messages of some kind.
The vast majority of my email is coming from companies, small and large, all eager to make a sale. And, to their credit, most of them are going out on a limb–at least occasionally–by offering me something for free, or at a deep discount, to keep you engaged, or as a loss-leader on a paid item.
Newly minted businesses can be more-or-less on an equal footing with older, more established companies due to the fact that they now share the latest social-media strategies. These strategies are the subject of an avalanche of other companies launched every day that can teach anybody the process of affiliate/email marketing and social media in general. All of those strategies will, at some point, involve sending me an email. Given that, it’s not hard to figure out how the volume of emails arriving in my inbox was created.
I confess that I invited most of those messages by signing up for various notifications, newsletters, and/or promotional offers that sounded really good at the time. Truth is, if anti-spam laws are being adhered to, I invited all of them. Either way, I never forget that I am in complete control of this apparent chaos in my inbox, but it also seems that I am not doing enough to manage it.
I end up discarding a significant chunk of these emails without ever opening them. Oh well, one might say, no harm done. But, wait, there is harm done. I just spent 45 minutes of my life cleaning out the clutter in my inbox. Or, I should say, I gave up after 45 minutes; that’s a precious chunk of my day that I would have dearly loved to devote to something else. Maybe some harm after all.
Email isn’t the only drag on my digital life; I don’t even do Facebook, so I can only imagine what that adds to a person’s digital management chore-base. But I do visit lots of websites of the companies whose products I own, and whose products I want to know more about. Managing my on-line profiles on these sites is also a time-consuming task.
No one I know is regularly on top of managing this messy influx of data. The complaints about it are nearly universal. Which means we have a universal problem: we can’t seem to say no. No is the solution, and the only reasonable one that I know of. Yet, that seems to be the one thing I have the more trouble with. How about you?
I think I have an explanation: from what I know about human nature, we appear to be hardwired to seek out opportunities that will make our lives better in some way. In generations gone by, those opportunities were rare, and the trick was to seize on as many of them as you could in your lifetime. In the digital era, every email in your inbox is presented as an opportunity, so it is nearly reflexive that you want to pounce on it. And, pounce I do. You too?
So, here’s the real lesson that can be learned from our overwhelmed email inbox: you are easy to reach, and marketers know that you are programmed to pounce on opportunities. Get used to it. The modern response is to say no. That won’t be your first reflexive response, but it is always one that you are free to choose.
While I’m at it, I would also like to point out that email is not the only way your time and energy are being squandered by modern practices. Modern life in general is hostile to your quality of life in many ways–seen and unseen. It is really modern life that you need to say no to; at least once in awhile, for the sake of your sanity and happiness. Email is just the squeaky wheel.
Pay attention to how bright, shiny modern things intrude on the sanctity of your inner peace. You’ll find lots of examples. And all of them are still within our complete control; if we can just learn to say no. Passing on “opportunities” is the new job of successful living. Good luck with that.