Friday, April 29, 2016

Email and spam

Email is always a difficult balance for me. Email provides a method for communicating issues and needs, and for collaborating on projects and work efforts.

But email can also be a distraction. I get a lot of emails, and I rely on my inbox to keep me up-to-date on the goings-on at work. When I get off-topic emails, or spam, I look for ways to get rid of it.

I used to try to do the "right" thing and redirect these vendor solicitation emails to the right person in my organization, or email the vendor back to point them in the right direction. I figured I was doing myself a favor by letting vendors know that I wasn't the right person, so they could be more effective in their marketing.

But I eventually realized that I'm just making the problem worse for myself. I'm encouraging these vendors to send me "blind" emails to reach out to me on random topics, with the hope that I'll buy something. And when I reply, my standard email footer includes my contact information, so eventually these vendors start "cold calling" my phone. Now I have two problems: email I don't want, and phone calls I don't want.

And I've decided to be very judicious in marking email as spam. My rule is simple: if a message is a vendor "cold call" email, and I didn't ask for it, the message is spam. This rule has saved me so much time.

There's a neat feature in most email systems to mark a message as spam. Over time, your email system learns from you, and gets better at categorizing emails as spam and moving them out of your primary inbox so you can stay focused on your work—and deal with the spam at a later time. Or in my case, to delete at a later time.

Don't let email become a burden. Give yourself permission to delete the emails you don't need, and to take yourself off mailing lists you don't participate in. Let your email system mark messages as spam so they don't clutter your inbox.
photo: Kim Love/Flickr (cc by-sa)

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