I just finished re-reading Atomic Habits and examined a lot of the things I'm doing everyday through the lens of habits.
One of the habits that I started building was to unsubscribe from unwanted email every time I checked my mail.
Checking my mail was already a scheduled process, ever since I disabled all notifications for incoming mail.
After unsubscribing from quite a few newsletters/company updates etc I noticed how the signal vs noise ratio improved.
However I was still greeted by lots of old messages that made the whole experience feel cluttered and still drew my attention by just being there. It's hard to prevent your eyes from quickly scanning lines on a screen if this is what you are doing most days.
Relying on Gmail's and Fastmail's stellar search functions I just archived all emails in all inboxes, hoping that I'll find them later through the search function.
For the first time in 10 years this gave me a clean slate to work with when dealing with email.
Now the next step was to prevent a new mess from building up.
I now process my inboxes 3 to 5 times per day. For each message:
- I read the message
- If acting on the message is estimated to take less then 5 minutes, I do so
- Otherwise add an entry to my todo list for the day
- (optional) Unsubscribe from newletter is not done yet
- Archive email if needed for later, otherwise delete.
The result is:
- No more emails that go unanswered for several days,
- Processing email takes < 5 minutes in total per day,
- an immediate feeling of satisfaction when having cleared out an inbox.
Since the results are surprisingly pleasant, I'll stick with this!