Back in 2017 when Twitter user Brannan Carter confessed she was struggling to clean out her email inbox, other email hoarders reached out to cheer her up. One reported a current count of 1,011 unread emails. Then others showed her up with inboxes overflowing with tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of ignored messages.
These folks might seem extreme in their email backlogs, but don't judge them too harshly. One survey showed the average American employee has 199 unread emails in her inbox. No word on whether entrepreneurs are doing any better, but with all the communication entailed in running a business, I sincerely doubt many have inboxes to brag about.
In short, the vast majority of us are weighed down under a tsunami of unread messages and guilt about our communication failings. Now is the perfect time to throw off that burden, Princeton neurosurgeon Mark McLaughlin told Business Insider recently.
We could all use a dose of satisfaction and control at the moment
In the course of a longer article about reducing mental strain during this crisis, McLaughlin admits he was recently doing no better with his inbox than the rest of us. He was swimming in 756 unread messages until he resolved to do something about it. He suggests the rest of us join him in declaring email bankruptcy and just deleting them all.
"There's no way you're ever going to get to all of those old emails. It's useless. Plus the more you answer, the more you get back. Give up -- or at least retreat," he urges readers.
Relieving yourself of your nagging email guilt isn't a bad idea at any time. But let's be honest, at the moment we all have a crazy amount of stress and uncertainty on our plate. Entrepreneurs struggling to keep their companies afloat during the crisis are under particular strain. If there is low-hanging fruit out there to cheer yourself up, now is the perfect time to pluck it.
Not only will cleaning out your inbox mean you have one less thing to worry about. You'll also enjoy the sweet satisfaction and sense of control that comes from getting organized. And who doesn't want to feel a bit more in control at the moment?
Here's exactly how McLaughlin went about declaring email bankruptcy without missing out on essential messages:
I dedicated exactly 30 minutes to complete this task. Working back from today's emails, I reviewed and handled as many as I could. Once I hit 30 minutes, I deleted everything below. Boom. In one click I felt renewed. It might cause some anxiety, especially if you are as meticulous as I am. But I promise, if anything in that bunch was important, someone will let you know.
If you could use a feeling of renewal right now too, McLaughlin's idea might be the perfect way to gift yourself a little bit of satisfaction at a very low cost.