For several months, I’ve been taming my office Outlook account. I’ve worked for my employer for almost ten years and during this tenure my in-box has taken on a life of its own, increasingly resembling some kind of mutant swamp monster, the office refrigerator or a man-eating tiger.
Six months ago, I probably averaged 500 daily in-box messages, a garbled mixture of the following in descending order of prevalence:
- Spam that escaped our corporate spam filters. Yeah, this stuff dominated my in-box.
- Ads from HR, management, training, safety, wellness, benefits and compliance vendors.
- Newsletters and blogs from HR, management, training, safety, wellness, compliance, benefits professionals.
- Actual e-mail correspondence.
Notice what was at the bottom. Argh! (author screams!) It was out of control, no fun, took an inordinate amount of time to wade through. And I was always up against my storage ceiling.
I am not a techie, but because of the frequency of complaints from other (non-techie) kindred souls I know I’m not alone and would like to share what I’ve done to make my in-box less frightening:
- I discontinued all unnecessary alerts, such as notification of incoming Twitter direct messages or new resumes on my ATS.
- All resumes now go through a separate Applicant Tracking System. No more resumes getting lost buried in the mountain of other mail or eating up my storage limit!
- I set up filters to automatically file some of my e-mail. Correspondence from benefits and training vendors is filed in corresponding folders. It’s easy to find information when I need it, and I can also periodically purge unneeded records.
- I unsubscribed from 95% of those vendor ads. Or rather, I should say I am unsubscribing since it is an ongoing process and will take a while to get through it all.
- Each time I see a newsletter or blog post in my in-box, I take a moment to evaluate its value to me. If I want to continue reading it, I subscribe through RSS. I use Google Reader, but use whatever works for you. Once a day, I glance through my subscriptions, much more efficient than being interrupted all day long. For a tutorial, see Ben Eubanks’ recent post.
- If vendors make me jump through hoops to unsubscribe, I just hit “block sender.”
- To decrease my spam, I needed to augment our company’s filters, which though set on ‘high’ aren’t doing the job. Glancing through my in-box spam, it was apparent that words like “Viagra” were screened out when they were in the subject line, but not when in the address line. In Outlook’s advanced settings, I screened out Viagra, Cialis, Gucci, Rolex and other words I see repeatedly in the address line. I did the same with frequent subject line item, e.g I blocked variations of “?????????????” In addition, my friend Shennee Rutt’s hubby David sent me Outlook instructions to decimate foreign-language spam since I was getting spam like this: КУРС ДЛЯ СЕКРЕТАРЕЙ-РЕФЕРЕНТОВ. (I hope I didn’t just say something offensive.)
- I still get a lot of e-mail, but it’s shrinking!
- I continue to unsubscribe from newsletters and vendor publications at a rate of about 10/day (!) I expect this to taper off as I work through the backlog.
- My spam is definitely down since I played with advanced settings. Somehow, a small number of Viagra/Cialis mail still gets through, and though I can’t figure out why, I am still grateful that it is much reduced.
What did I learn from all this?
- Be very careful what you sign up for. Anytime you [for example] place an online order, make sure you un-check boxes that will result in in-box traffic. Or at least, think twice about it! Err on the side of ‘no thanks.’
- When you receive unwanted mail, don’t just delete it, as I was doing for years. Instead, take action to manage the flow by redirecting it, decreasing it, or unsubscribing. Disciplined action now may mean much less reaction [as in: delete, delete, delete] later.
As I said more than once, I’m not a techie. Obviously, I don’t come close to having all the answers! What steps have you taken to tame your in-box monster? I’d love to hear.
photo by Kevin_H