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Emails You Should Delete NOW

email checkup trash

Photo by Rafa from Brazil

If you’re not suffering from email overload, you must not have an email account. Pat yourself on the back, leave the library computer you’re reading this on, and go oil your typewriter.

For everyone else, I’m ending 2007 with a new series on managing email overflow. Close your email and pay attention. I guarantee these tips will help you start 2008 with a cleaner inbox.

Find the delete key

Do you remember the days when you got an email or two per day? I’ll bet you saved every single one. I know I did! But those days are over.

Getting dozens (maybe hundreds?) of emails every day means that you need to be a ninja with your delete key. If you don’t need it down the road, trash it. If in doubt, trash it. Feeling lazy about an email, trash it. You get the picture. Be ruthless!

Don’t just rely on my opinion, other great thinkers agree: Merlin Mann, Brett Kelly, and Penelope Trunk.

If you’re still feeling helpless, I’ll give you a bit more guidance. Here are emails I get regularly that I’m trying to stop…for good. I suggest you do the same.

Delete these emails NOW

You’ve been SuperPoked! – Do these notices really need your attention? They’re breaking into your work flow, just so you can know that Bob threw a sheep at you. If you can’t immediately delete this one, find a therapist.

Jim is your latest fan on Digg! – I know you like having friends, but do you even know this guy? He’s probably just building up a list of Digg “friends” so he can spam them all with submissions.

You are Sally’s newest friend! – Twitter sends these notices whenever someone new starts following you. It’s always great to have followers, but your sanity requires a clean inbox. Instead of immediate “follow” notices, just check your Twitter page occasionally for new followers.

A payment posted to your account – Do any of your banks or credit cards send notices like this? I get them when my MasterCard payment goes through. Rest assured that you’ll know if the payment doesn’t post on time. Save yourself an email and nix these useless notices.

Are you seeing a pattern yet? These emails are probably all bacn. They’re not spam, but they don’t offer important value for your day.

You can easily setup Gmail filters to handle these emails. But I suggest you just trash them. It’ll give you a sense of control over your inbox. And you probably didn’t need them anyway.

Check back here on Thursday for Part 2 in this Email Checkup series: do you really need all those newsletters? To make sure you catch the entire series, you can subscribe via RSS.

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7 Responses to “Emails You Should Delete NOW”

  1. Jeanne Dininni
    December 29th, 2007


    Great points! So often we tend to keep a huge number of e-mails “just in case” until our archives–if not our inboxes–swell to such unmanageable size that archiving an e-mail can feel somewhat like dropping it into the abyss!

    I agree that we need to become ruthless in deleting unnecessary e-mail messages, and the end of the year would be the perfect time to crack down on our e-mail hording addiction!

    Thanks for your excellent advice!

  2. Andrew Flusche
    December 29th, 2007


    I’m glad the post meant something to you. Ironically, on Friday I overheard a coworker say “I never delete any emails.” 🙂

    Thanks for the comment!

  3. Christian
    May 9th, 2008

    I was searching on legal advice about deleting emails and found this article. It’s interesting to me that a lawyer is advising to delete emails. There’s two sides to this:
    -Delete useless emails to clean up your inbox and protect yourself from putting your foot in your mouth (in certain situations)
    -Never delete your emails so that you have them all for your records and accountability.

    I always thought conventional business wisdom was to save all your emails no matter what. When searching on the internet, I haven’t found many opinions on this (I probably haven’t searched hard enough). So, what’s your legal perspective on this situation?

  4. Andrew Flusche
    May 10th, 2008

    @Christian – I guess I’m not a conventional lawyer. 😉 Seriously, I never delete an email that has value. Anything related to my clients or other business pursuits is saved indefinitely. I would advise that you everyone else does the same. But I don’t advocate anyone saving pointless little emails like I describe above.

  5. Michael Woods
    July 31st, 2008

    I tend to have all work emails redirected to a sky.com or gmail account, with a filter applied so that they don’t clutter my inbox. That way, even after spring-cleaning my work Outlook application, I can still retrieve emails from the archives if someone says “Remember that discussion we had in February 2006 about something or other…?”

  6. voila_marisa
    September 4th, 2008

    Once an email has been sent to the TRASH
    location, is there any chance of retrieval by others?

  7. Andrew Flusche
    September 4th, 2008

    @voila_marisa – Actually, information you delete on the computer isn’t usually deleted permanently. The average computer user probably can’t retrieve deleted emails, but an expert could.

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