The Great Unsubscribe

For the past 5 years, I have used a tool called Unroll.me in order to take all of my subscription-based emails and “roll them into” a single digest. This includes every newsletter I have ever signed up for. It includes every account I have created for a web tool when they decide to try and sell me on a new feature or an upgrade. It also includes every promotional email and almost-but-not-quite-spam sender that uses Mailchimp or Constant Contact to send out messages.

At the beginning of the summer, I decided it was time to take a look at the results of this, and here they are:

  • I had added nearly 1800 senders to my digest, and this caused nearly 100 messages to be “rolled up” into the digest every day of the week.
  • I hadn’t opened a daily digest in over a year.

This means that a tool that was meant to save time and allow for me to get a better hold all of my promotional and serialized email was simply kicking the can down the road. I looked and over the last 5 years, I have accumulated over 100,000 of these messages and they are just sitting in my archived mail.

Armed with this data, I decided to embark on The Great Unsubscribe.

I turned off Unroll.me and started aggressively tapping that unsubscribe button in every single one of the emails that came in. It is both incredibly satisfying and rediculously frustrating. It is satisfying because I really am cleaning up my workflows so that I can focus on the work and personal relationships I most want to cultivate. It is frustrating because I really have let this go for years too long.

This is the most concrete example I have for what distracting “sand” feels like as it fills up your bucket. Every time I tap on a Unsubscribe link, I have to take 30 seconds of distraction before getting back to my real work. This sand is getting into everything in my account, and I have to clear it out so I can make room for things that matter more.

The question I keep on thinking about each time I perform this task is, “What else can I unsubscribe from in my life.” Are there any conversations or investments of time that I am making that should be removed to allow for deeper impact and fulfillment.

I don’t have an answer yet, but I wonder if there is anything you see in our work (or your own lives) that could be Unsubscribed to.

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