Taking my own advice, I paid attention to what part of my digital life was causing me the most stress. Email was the number one offender.
On a recent vacation, I experimented with life without email. For a week, I didn’t check my email at all. It was simply amazing, glorious, freeing, delightful, exceptional…
Since I can’t completely opt-out of emails, I wanted to figure out a way to make email less painful. The solution? A radical declutter of my email and online accounts to minimize digital overwhelm.
Without further ado…
I unsubscribed from (almost) everything.
While agonizing over the stress email brought to my life, it dawned on me that most of my email-related anxiety was self-inflicted.
The majority of emails I receive are non-essential and can be eliminated without causing any significant disruption to my life.
Nobody is forcing me to subscribe to or sign up for newsletters, online courses, and promotional emails. Yet, all these messages constantly vie for my attention, causing undue stress, all the while providing very little value because I rarely actually read any of it.
Enough was enough. It was time I tackled the issue for once and all. I created my essential-emails checklist with the following criteria: email from real people, company emails for important communications (e.g. billing information and privacy updates), and/or email that truly brought value and/or joy. Any email that didn’t meet one or more of the above was to be eliminated. I went on an unsubscribe-spree.
For years, I felt obligated to process every email that arrived in my inbox. What I failed to realize was that I can choose to not deal with some at all.
It was liberating.
Right now, only three newsletters remain in my inbox: Austin Kleon’s Weekly Newsletter, Josh Spector’s For the Interested, and Christina’s Screen Time Lifeline. I genuinely look forward to their newsletters arriving in my inbox every single week. They bring me value and joy.
I also unrolled from all e-courses, except for my digital wellness coaching training course. Simplifying my digital commitments means a lot less email arriving in my inbox, requiring to be read, watched, or listened to.
Lastly, I’m continuously unsubscribing from company emails, besides important communication emails like billing information and privacy updates, which I can’t be opt-out from anyway.
All in all, minimizing email to the essentials has been the best decision I ever made to simplify my online space. There’s less email arriving in my inbox to be processed, significantly reducing my stress level.
TIP: December is the perfect time to unsubscribe from company emails because most will be sending out holiday greeting emails soon. This is also an easy way to find out about forgotten accounts and email subscriptions.
I deleted (unused) online accounts.
Another spree I’m currently on is deleting online accounts: accounts I haven’t used in forever, accounts I rarely use, and accounts I use but don’t really find valuable.
As much as I want to learn French, it has been four years since I signed up for Duolingo and I’m still at bonjour and merci. Sometimes, you just got to give up the dream and accept real life for what it is. At least, it’s one less digital clutter to deal with.
What’s more, I deleted Spotify. Despite my deep desire to diversify my taste in music, I have been listening to and enjoying the same albums for forever. Most of them are in my iTunes library, and have been discovering old songs I haven’t listened to in a while. I’m really enjoying the nostalgia. Also, my public library offers a wide-range of free music on the Hoopla app #supportyourlocallibrary.
Next is Amazon. It’s time to put my money where my mouth is and support smaller online companies, and stick it to Jeffrey Preston Bezos while I’m at it. Side note: For my Canadian people, well.ca is a wonderful alternative.
It feels so good to have less digital footprint. It feels even better to have fewer apps, accounts, and commitments to think about.
TIP: Use Account Killer to find out how to delete online accounts. While it’s sometimes as simple as going into your account setting, other times only customer support can remove an account.
To finally come to the understanding that I have a choice over my digital space has been very empowering. Instead of feeling overwhelmed and exhausted every time I open email, I now feel relaxed.
I sincerely hope my experience inspires you to start reclaiming any area of your digital space that brings you stress. You can choose to opt out. You have the power to influence your environment, even if it is online. It doesn’t have to be complicated.
If it is not essential, it is clutter.
Until next time,
Sign up for my curated weekly newsletter on life-tech balance and digital well-being. Five ideas delivered right to your inbox. Every Tuesday.