Financial bankruptcies are at record levels. It’s very tempting to give up paying off our debts and start again with a clean slate.

Now we hear that more and more people are declaring email bankruptcy. The basic idea is that if you are drowning in over 3000 unanswered emails, with 200+ still coming in every day, select all the emails in your Inbox, press delete, and send out an email to all contacts declaring your bankruptcy and your intention to move forward with fresh start and an empty Inbox. (Don’t tempt me!)

Or you can just declare a vendetta against email. That’s Alexandra Samuel’s solution to the eleventh commandment: “Thou shalt reply to every email.” 

The expectation that every message gets an answer dates from that previous era: the era when a correspondent had gone to some trouble, enough to warrant a response. By carrying it forward, into an era when it’s the recipient and not the sender who bears the burden, we’ve condemned ourselves to a life of email servitude. We carry our Blackberries and our iPhones so that we swat down messages as quickly as possible, before they have time to accumulate in our inboxes. We routinely answer email in the hours after dinner (remember the old idea of “personal time”?) because there’s no way to get through it during the business day. We set up vacation messages to apologize for 24 hour email absences, and then take on the burden of plowing through the backlog up on our return.

Declaring a vendetta on mandatory email, involves putting the cost of communication back on the sender.

What if we decided only to respond to the emails that actually feel important, valuable or exciting enough to warrant a response? What if we left inquiries unanswered, information unacknowledged, requests unfulfilled? What if we chose to respond only to the email we actually want to respond to? It’s possible. We can can shift the cost of making a message response-worthy back to the message sender.

Here’s a draft of the message she’s planning to send to her contacts:

Due to the volume of email I receive, I no longer personally review every message. If you are interested in learning more about why I have decided to set limits on my email time, you can read this [link to this blog post or one you draft yourself]. If you do not receive a further reply within 72 hours, please assume that I have had to focus on other professional or personal priorities at this time. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

Don’t you just love that! It is so, so tempting.

PS: Isn’t it amazing how willing people are to declare financial and email bankruptcy, but so few are prepared to declare spiritual bankruptcy (Matt. 5:3), and move forward by grace into the future and into eternity with a clean slate.

  • se7en

    Oh I just love the punchline!!! Excellent post as usual!!!

  • Alexandra Samuel

    Thanks so much for sharing this post; I’m glad you found it helpful, and very interested by the direction on which you concluded.