If you're one of the great many people who fervently wish to spend less time dealing with email this year, there's no shortage of advice on offer. From the complicated system Zappos boss Tony Hsieh uses to reach the coveted state of "inbox zero," to tips on using mindfulness to conquer message mayhem (and even radical but probably impractical solutions like quitting email entirely), you've no doubt come across plenty of potential ways to tackle the problem already.
Yet, your life of inbox lunacy persists. Why?
If entrepreneur and author Tim Ferriss is to be believed, the problem is your inability to face a harsh but simple truth about email: there is no solution to getting less email besides ignoring more messages. Yup, that's right. If you're not sending less, you won't ever succeed in taming your inbox, he insisted in a recent blog post.
"The only sustainable solutions involve selective ignorance. Step 1: Answer fewer e-mail (or 'Ignore more e-mail'). Step 2: Give your email address to fewer people (or 'Use a decoy email that goes to your assistant')," he writes.
Is an autoresponder the answer?
'But that's not possible for me!' you might protest. 'Tough luck,' Ferriss replies. If you really want to be less overwhelmed, you need to be less responsive. His best solution to sending less email is using an autoresponder -- even when he's not on vacation. It's a tactic he's explained in more detail elsewhere. It might sound impractical, but Ferriss believes autoresponders can work for people in a wider range of situations than you probably realize.
"These things are highly personalized, of course," he concedes, but he also insists that if you're "inclined to dismiss the concept based on my example (e.g. This doesn't apply to me!)" than you should "read this real-world example from a radio station employee in Austin, TX." Autoresponders, in other words, aren't just for freewheeling entrepreneurs, Ferriss believes, but can also work for those with bosses as well.
Or just ignore on your own
If you're still not sold on the autoresponder idea, there may be other ways to put Ferriss's tough love on finally escaping email overload to use. You could, for example, just respond less.
Will your overly chatty colleague really care if you don't get back to the third jokey reply-all email she sent that day? (And maybe earning her ire isn't actually all that bad an idea if you get less email from her.) Is it actually worth your time getting back to that totally off-target inquiry from a salesperson? (I've decided no when it comes to the loads of irrelevant story ideas I get sent every day, for example. Sorry, PR people.) Could you hire a virtual assistant to churn through any routine messages?
Exact methods will differ, but whatever approach you settle on, you're unlikely to be able to escape the harsh-but-true reality Ferriss points out -- if you really want to fight email overwhelm this year, you're going to have to start sending less email.
How can you manage to send fewer messages in 2016?