Email Jubilee

Dear friends, family, colleagues, clients, and anyone else who sends me email,

Like many people, I sometimes get totally swamped by email. My inbox gets up in the thousands, emails that were once urgent become missed opportunities and then just clutter, the few important emails I didn’t get to because they deserved quality time and a thoughtful response get harder and harder to respond to as the shame of not yet having responded builds over time, and the ongoing deluge of incoming emails just makes it all worse.

The best way I can find for getting myself out of this situation is to get to inbox zero by hacking my way through a few weeks’ worth of emails and then moving everything that’s more than a few weeks old out of my inbox and into a folder. Then I try to tweak my system for dealing with incoming emails in hopes it’ll be a while before I get swamped again.

That works pretty well, except for the folder. I’m definitely aware that somewhere in that folder there may well be some important emails from people I care about who are waiting on a response from me and don’t want to nag me about it. Theoretically, I could go through the folder and look for those, but it’s huge, and overwhelming, and most of what’s in there is no longer important, and if I was going to get to it I probably would have when it was in my inbox, and that clearly didn’t happen, so… The traditional way of dealing with this situation is to spend the rest of my life intending to get to the folder, feeling guilty that I haven’t gotten to it yet, and worrying about the impending consequences of having missed whatever important stuff was in there. I don’t much like that plan.

So, as an alternative to spending the rest of my life feeling guilty about email, I’m declaring an email jubilee.

A jubilee is a biblical thing in which every fifty years all debts are forgiven. An email jubilee happens when I get myself to inbox zero by filing away a whole bunch of old stuff without looking carefully at it and humbly ask for the forgiveness of anyone whose important emails were in there. If you sent me an email before the date of my last email jubilee that you’re still hoping for a response to, please re-send it. There’s no need to append a note or anything, just forward it along. I promise I have a better system now, and I’d be really happy for an opportunity to respond appropriately to your email. I’m sorry I didn’t get to it when you originally sent it, I appreciate all the patience and forbearance you’ve shown me so far, and I’m grateful for whatever work you put into dealing with my non-responsiveness and finding and re-sending the old email.

Thank you so much for your support in keeping email from taking over my life. I really appreciate your help!

Sincerely,

The person whose email signature you just clicked through to get here

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P.S. If you too want an email jubilee, you are more than welcome to make an email signature that links to this page. I suggest a concise:

Last email jubilee: [DATE]

or a more explicit:

If you’d like a reply to any email sent before my last email jubilee on [DATE], please re-send it. Thank you!

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