Email isn’t the problem, you are.

Why email wrongly gets a bad wrap and what you can do to keep control of it.

When the news came out that Gmail had accidentally reset some of their users accounts back to their default settings wiping out all their email I was interested in seeing how people responded, and as predicted they weren’t too happy. But what I found more interesting is what these people could be storing that’s so important? gmail inbox

For the past three years any piece of email I get, eventually gets deleted, why? Because in most circumstances it’s not very important. A conversation with a friend that peters-out after a time, an order confirmation from Amazon or that annoying monthly reminder from my bank that tells me “your online statement is ready to view online”.

I know people who archive this type of information, and I for one feel sorry for them. Now of course their are a few exceptions to what I delete, invoices from smaller companies, anything relating to business (however trivial) and any conversations I truly think are worth hanging onto for a while are stored either in Gmail, downloaded as PDFs or forwarded on to my business email address. What I’m trying to say is this: Just because email storage is mostly free doesn’t mean you should fill it up with crap. Do you really think that when your dead and buried your grandchildren will marvel at that email from Facebook letting you know that your mum added you as a friend? Probably not. What annoys me the most is people obsess over every little detail when it comes to organising their email. The introduction of labels, filters and now Gmail’s ‘Priority Inbox’ stop people from actually sorting out their email problems and let them fiddle around with the settings making them think they’ve done something productive. Well, they’ve not. If you want my advice, sit down, open your inbox and sort out your email. Delete what needs to be deleted, reply to what needs to be replied to and report as spam any junk you don’t want showing up in your inbox. It’s as simple as that. If you have to use filters and labels, by all means do, but don’t let them distract you from sorting out your email. This might also be the time to look at the email you’re receiving. Do you really need Facebook sending you an email every time someone ‘friends’ you, tags you in a picture or comments on your wall? No. Is it really a life or death situation if you don’t receive your favourite websites newsletter? No. And what about that daily recipe from iVillage? Again, no. The remedy is simple, unsubscribe – that’s it. If your problem is ‘too many people email me’ here’s a bright idea, don’t give out your email address willy-nilly and if you have to but they soon become annoying sending you chain-emails and what ever annoying people do to annoy you ask them politely to stop. Don’t be afraid to confront people for their unscrupulous email etiquette. People like to hate email, it’s the 21st century’s whipping boy, but it’s not email’s fault, it’s yours. If you’re can’t be bothered to keep control of your email then frankly you deserve what you get. And if you’re one of those people who thinks Facebook and Twitter are the magic bullet when it comes to communicating online, you’re unfortunately wrong. Multiple inboxes will do nothing but make your ‘email problem’ even worse. And unlike the naysayers, I for one am a fan of email. People can email me and I can take as much time as I need to craft a response and I can choose to ignore people without causing too much offence. In conclusion you don’t have an email problem, the problem is you.