Archive Or Delete Emails That Don’t Immediately Feel Important

Archive Or Delete Emails That Don’t Immediately Feel Important

Managing email is a tough task for anyone. If you’re really overwhelmed, it might be time to take a more ruthless approach. Developer Matt Gemmell’s solution is especially brutal but effective: if an email doesn’t seem important to you, delete or archive it immediately.

Gemmell calls this the “Darwinian importance” of emails, and his argument is pretty simple:

The importance of an email isn’t something you need to spend time thinking about. If it doesn’t immediately and obviously make you feel you should reply to it within the next day or two, it’s not that important to you. Archive or delete it.

If it’s sufficiently important to someone else, that person will expend effort to make it come back to you. If the email does not come back to you, you would have wasted your time replying to it. Win-win.

Essentially, if you ignore the email, the sender will get back to you if it really matters. If it wasn’t important, it will fade away. It’s a bit cutthroat, but if you’re struggling to get your inbox into a manageable state, Gemmel’s method could prove helpful. Check out his full post for a few more ruthless tips to cutting down your inbox.

Managing Email Realistically [Matt Gemmell]


  • are you kidding me? telling people to delete emails rather than action them or add them into some kind of structure to be completed is TERRIBLE advice for anyone who actually wants to continue having a job/clients/not being on centrelink.

    • and it only just sunk in that you’re essentially making the others around you do more work (repeat contact on the same subject) because you cbf doing what you’re supposed to. truly horrible advice.

  • My apologies, but this advice isn’t too practical.
    One of my teachers has taught us again and again the importance of keeping EVERY email correspondence, especially if you decide to work for a company with high-risk ventures.
    For example; remember the Deepwater Horizon incident? If it wasn’t for the way one of the employees kept his correspondence, nobody would have been much the wiser about the company’s negligence in the event for years. Courts take such things as evidence; if you keep your emails, you’ll survive better out there in the world.
    This is just one of many reasons I advise against email deletion. (Spam is OK to delete, though!)

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