How to Reduce the Amount of Junk Mail (and Save Your Sanity)

We all get junk mail, some more than others. As I sat through a one-hour meeting last week, it seemed like my phone was buzzing constantly (also draining my battery). No, it wasn't because of incoming calls or texts. After the meeting concluded, I checked my email to find that I had nearly 50 new emails that arrived during that meeting. Shockingly, almost every single one was junk! It was then that I decided I need to do something about this ever-increasing problem.

Historically, I have recommended two ways to minimize junk mail. One way is to set up mail rules to filter out the junk that is predictable. The problem with that approach is that most junk isn't that predictable (spammers are very clever in circumventing that approach).

Another option is to click the "unsubscribe me" link that is found on nearly all junk mailers. Here's an example:

I usually frown on taking this approach because while spammers are legally required to remove you from their mailing list, that doesn't mean that they can't (and won't) sell your contact information to another spammer to use.

I came to the conclusion that this junk mail problem had become so inconvenient to me that I would revisit the option of using the "unsubscribe me" link. For your benefit, I decided to turn this into a public experiment... in the hopes that it would not only help me, but help someone else as well. I figured one of two things would happen: it would either be a huge success, or a huge failure.

For this experiment, I started with a 24-hour period (midnight to midnight), and tracked my junk mail.

On Tuesday of last week, I received 418 junk emails. That's an average of 17.5 per hour (for the 24-hour period).

On Wednesday of last week (the day after my "baseline"), I made a conscious effort to click the "unsubscribe me" link on every single piece of junk mail that arrived. Sure, this process took longer than just deleting the junk, but it was now essential to my productivity. A few emails I received didn't actually have such a link, but for the rest, I was told (after unsubscribing) that it could take up to 10 days for the change to take affect.

On Friday of last week, I again tracked the number of junk emails I received. The results were incredibly exciting! In that 24-hour period (midnight to midnight), I received only 38 pieces of junk mail!

Not only can I see the difference, but more importantly, I can feel the difference! Since taking the time to unsubscribe from all my junk email, I receive much less email, and the email I do receive is actually legitimate. This doesn't mean that I don't get junk mail now, but I get much, much less of it. As a result, my email anxiety has actually dropped significantly, allowing me to focus on the most important emails.. from actual people.

Posted on May 7, 2014 and filed under Opinion.