Why I Unsubscribed from Your Email List

I recently I wrote about unsubscribing from a good friend’s email list and how “I’m too busy” is a cop-out excuse1. That kick-started a post about how I consume the internet2. I thought it would be interesting to publish the full email I sent to my friend when I responded.


Sorry for the delayed response on this. Personal email takes the back burner sometimes when things get busy. 

I know, because I have stopped reading a lot of things.  But I have never stopped reading things that open the world, or open my mind or stir my imagination. 

I think that is an amazing insight—very well said. That challenged me to re-consider my, “I’m too busy” answer. While it is true that I’m busy, I do still read things. So, I went back and really thought about what was under the surface of being too busy (or why I felt that way). Here’s my gut response: 

  • Because I receive a huge volume of email, I process messages in batches (for example, I’m working through a “respond” label in my personal account, which is why this message is being sent now as opposed to weeks ago).
  • I also use email almost 100% for communication, not content consumption. That’s an intentional decision. Email can be a huge time-suck for me. That’s partly because of the nature of the medium and partly because of my own tendencies/lack of discipline. (I actually tried to write some thoughts about some of this stuff: https://ericdodds.com/making-it-count-distraction-is-the-enemy/https://ericdodds.com/making-it-count-steward-time-attention-technology/https://ericdodds.com/what-apps-on-iphone/)
  • Because of those things, I’m a serial-unsubscriber. For me, email isn’t the format for long-form reading. In fact, I only subscribe to one single email, and that’s the Quartz Daily Brief (there are multiple versions: http://qz.com/re/daily-brief/). It’s a list of news headlines. I read it every day so that I’m thinking about the world, not just what’s going on in my life.
  • For the long-form reading I do engage in, I treat it much like I treat email in that I process it in batches. When I come across something I think would be valuable to read, I save it via Instapaper. I rarely ever read anything the moment I find it (or that it comes my way). When I reach a critical mass of articles saved via Instapaper, say, 20 or so, I’ll actually sit down and read for a few hours. I find my mind consumes information better that way—it’s in reading and processing mode for a long time as opposed to switching back and forth multiple times a day.
  • I subscribe to a very few blogs. The exact number is 16. Here’s the breakdown:
    • 3 of those are focused on product updates (feature releases for software I use)
    • 1 is a music blog and
    • 3 are photo blogs
    • 5 blogs by friends or employees
    • Julie’s blog
    • 2 by entrepreneur-esque people
    • 1 by an author who studies technology’s affect on society
  • It’s worth mentioning that the list of blogs I subscribe to rotates often—the 5 blogs by friends or employees has changed (both in the sources and quantity of feeds) a handful of times in the last few months. The only writing-based blog that has kept a consistent slot is http://thefrailestthing.com/. Interestingly, it’s the most dense of them all.
  • I pipe both my Instapaper and blog feeds through a tool called ReadKit (http://readkitapp.com/). That way, all of my reading is in one place. When I sit down for a reading session, it happens in a single venue. (There are also organizational benefits, but I won’t go into my archival process…:)

So, considering all of those things, I think a simple answer is that I have a very defined process for consuming content and email isn’t a part of it. You could make the argument that if something is good enough, the medium won’t matter, but that’s a pretty subjective assertion to tackle. I personally know that there’s an ocean of good content out there and I’m never going to find or read it all. That’s somewhat disappointing because I know I’m missing some good stuff, but at the end of the day I have built a content-consumption process that works well within the bounds of work-life balance I’m pursuing as well as the digital toolset I use everyday.

I’d be happy to chat on the phone about this again now that I’ve had more time to think on it.

1. You can read my post about being “too busy” here.2. You can read my post about how I consume the internet here.

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