There are just times I turn off the world. There are just some times you have to give yourself space to be quiet.
– Michelle Obama
Life feels noisy, doesn’t it?
In 2017, one study found that people were consuming five times as much information every day as compared to 1986. Now imagine what would happen if we compared 2017 to the year 1817!
Our brains and bodies are not made to process this much stimulation. Is there any wonder that we’re feeling more stressed out and depleted than ever?
The good news is, we have control over what we let into our lives. We can work to reduce the amount of noise we’re exposed to daily and work against information overload. And to me, one of the easiest places to do this is in our email inboxes. We use them daily, and they’re one of our biggest sources of information. So we should curate what gets let into them, to the extent that we can.
But what happens when we try to unsubscribe from some of the junk & turn down the noise, and it doesn’t work?! Despite the anti-spam laws, so many companies still resist consumers’ attempts to unsubscribe from their lists. They’ll subscribe you to dozens of different lists, or send emails from different email addresses to skirt your filters. Sometimes it seems like no matter what you try, you just can’t get off a list.
In my quest to reclaim my inbox, I’ve discovered a few tricks for unsubscribing from those pesky lists that just won’t leave you alone.
Note: Only try these strategies if you’ve already tried unsubscribing the old-fashioned way! Marking innocent email as spam instead of unsubscribing is not good for creators OR readers. Read more on that here.
1. Report Spam & Unsubscribe, or Classify as Junk
Regardless of what email client you’re using, there will always be an option to “teach” your program what you consider to be junk mail. All of these email services use algorithms to sort your mail, and you can train the algorithm!
If you’ve already tried unsubscribing the regular way using the link in the bottom of the email and you’re still receiving mail from a particular company, that IS spam and should be classified as such. So go ahead and click the little ! symbol in Gmail, or the little X symbol on Apple Mail. This won’t technically get you off of the list entirely, but you shouldn’t continue to see these emails come in.
2. Create a Filter & Delete
Another way to get these annoying messages out of your sight is to create a filter (on Gmail) or rule (on Apple Mail) that means automatic action will be taken on emails like these in the future. You can do all kinds of things with filters, such as putting the emails into folders or archiving them, but I recommend deleting them directly. Once this filter is set up, these emails will be ‘whisked away’ before you even notice them come in. And trust me, the fewer emails you have to process (even if all you do is read & delete them), the more energy and mental space you’ll have.
PS. Try this strategy if someone’s feelings would be hurt by you unsubscribing from their list directly!
How To in Gmail:
- Search for emails from the sender by either keyword or email address
- Choose “Create Filter”
- Choose “Delete it”
Or, you can open up a particular message from the spam sender, click the three little dots in the right-hand corner, and choose “Filter messages like this”.
Learn more about how to do a similar method in Apple Mail here.
3. Update Your Preferences to a Throwaway Email
One of my favourite email tips is to create an email address that is just for subscribing to newsletter lists. Set this email address up separately from your other accounts and make sure you don’t get notifications for it! That way, it can’t interrupt your work day and you only have to look at it when you really need or want to.
If getting off of an email list is truly not working no matter what you try, my last resort would be trying to change the email address they have on file. Often there is an “Update Your Preferences” link at the bottom the email, which often allows you to change your email address to one you check less often. The less intrusive you can make email, the better you’ll feel.
I’m a fan of the Inbox Zero method, but not because it’s about being at zero messages all the time or being a perfectionist. I love it because it causes me to think more intentionally about what I let into my life, what boundaries I need to establish in my communications, and what kinds of messages I want to be receiving and reading on a daily basis. No matter what kind of work I’m doing, those are meta skills I want to be using! Life is noisy enough as it is without me letting in all kinds of extra junk.
If you’re curious about how I teach the Inbox Zero method, you can learn more about my philosophies right here.
PS. I want to hear from you – how do you unsubscribe from annoying lists? Any tips & tricks to share? Let me know in the comments below or on Instagram @stephpellett.
Note: I do not recommend using a service like Unroll.me. When I found out they were selling user data to other companies, I immediately stopped using them. That kind of defeats the purpose, doesn’t it? Gross. Be careful which tools you trust.