It was a busy morning and I had a bunch of things to do. Something that I was reminded of as I scrambled out of bed and shut the alarm down. A short while later I read the first message of the day. It was from Google. It said that I had used up all the free space, some 17 GB. If I need to continue receiving email and such else, I have to pay-up (upgrade). Or else!
I was fully awake now. This wake-up call had woken me up.
Over the next few days, I started parsing my inbox and deleting with a methodical frenzy. I said that in one sentence. Those who have trouble discarding stuff that they have accumulated over the years will know the trouble. It’s always painful for me. Gift wrappers, user manuals of gadgets that have long gone out of service, notebooks, clothes and much else pile up, until one fine day they are despatched away for want of space! The accumulation of fat on the hip is a different story.
Back to google. Within the first hour of my effort to clean up my mailbox, it was apparent that there had to be a better way of doing this. I had to make a few rules and play by them.
A few rules.
1. 25 minutes every day
2. Bunch email into a few buckets.
3. Apply filter and delete. (Don’t look too much)
It’s not been easy. I have been like one marauding warrior on a sea of silliness. Even as I cleaned pages and pages of emails, I was awestruck by the magnitude of the mess that my inbox played host to.
One category of news from numerous international, national, regional, local community publications from over the years. Washington Post, New York Times, The Guardian, India Today, Caravan, Vikatan and the like. News that has moved past its point and sitting pretty in the mailbox!
Random newsletters from the optometrist to the car showroom attendant all announcing something new that they wanted me to open up my wallet further. ‘We have opened a new store’. ‘We have something on discount’. ‘It’s been some time, we miss you’, some screamed. Yeah right. DELETE.
The mutual funds and the banks. I think there ought to be a law that they have to pay me for the amount of storage space they occupied in my inbox! Incorrigible.
The delete button must have felt the heat as I deleted emails with more emphasis and emotion, wondering why I hadn’t done so in the past. There were newsletters from Becky, Phil, Mamta, Sapna, XYZ store. I would have identified them and deleted them, only to find that a Mamta was still sitting in my inbox, a short while later. Because she had countless other email IDs!
Mamta@i4u.abc.com. And so on.
Every airline I have flown, every handkerchief I have bought, every ice cream I have eaten seem to have followed me and sat pretty inside my inbox. And like a scene from a mythological story, they kept morphing their identities that destroying them has been a task. To put it mildly.
Half an hour every day has meant I have managed to cut the obvious flab. I have unsubscribed from 36,798 newsletters! Or so it seems. Most of them, I am sure I didn’t subscribe in the first place. I am reasonably sure I did not sign up to receive a newsletter explaining the virtues of settling down in a community in west Kalyan. Or of a coffee from Kumbakonam.
There was one that announced the virtues of a certificate course on world peace or something akin to that. Again and again.
Vacancies of jobs in random organisations I don’t remember ever knowing existed! The merits of being a tri-athlete. Phew. The list is never-ending. I am still at it.
And about Amazon. I realise they have emails for every move of your finger.
You look for a product – you get an email.
You order a product. You get an email. ( and messages, but let’s stick to email now).
Your order reaches the vendor. You get an email.
Your vendor scratches the glue. You get an email.
Your product is on the way. Your product has turned the corner. Your product is in the building, where are you?
Your product has been delivered.
Can we have feedback?
By the way, because you ordered your product, we think you will like the exact replica of the product and we will send you emails every now and then, about the replica.
And then, we will send you an email so that you start all over again. It doesn’t matter if what you ordered was a pen or a porcupine! Phew!
And if you take a decade of such stuff that sits in your email box, you can imagine the stack. That could easily outspan a huge Amazon warehouse!
Its been some wake-up call. I think it will take a while. And I am more than determined I don’t want to be woken up this way. The other learning that many others have advocated, is this: “Reduce at source”. I have filters in place now. Plus dedicated time to clean up stuff.
The real wake-up call
This entire inbox experience also is a metaphorical stand-in for the accumulation that happens in the mind. Accumulation happens over time. As I wrote in the OWL despatch the other day. It happens whilst we are busy doing other things. The staid interactions. The WhatsApp venom. The ridiculous expectations. And so on. In the digital world, these stay back forever. Coming back to remind and haunt.
To move on requires cleansing of the mind. Often. But better still, is the idea of using strong filters and ‘reducing at source’. I am working on setting up strong filters. Coming up soon are some exits from more WhatsApp groups and social media platforms. Pruning work areas, drawing clear lines on the ground and staying within.
The digital landscape gives a false sense of infinite space, omnipotence, and width. This wake-up call has rekindled the desire for depth and deep work. I wonder if it’s just me. Would you have a story to share?
Ok Google. Can you stand down now please?
Image Courtesy : Pixabay