I’m Losing the Good War Against Spam and the Fight for a Manageable Email Inbox

by Joanna Pineda Posted on February 29, 2012

Woman sitting in front of laptop, looking stressed and overwhelmed Late last year, I received an e-mail from my son’s school, letting me know that enrollment forms for next school year were going to be done electronically from now on and that I should be on the lookout for the e-mail with the information and link. Okay, I bet you know where this is going. I remember getting the e-mail in January that included the details, the URL and the deadline but since I’m accustomed to work things being electronic and school stuff being mostly offline, I just could not make the mental shift.

Next thing I know, the Director of Admissions is calling to let me know that the deadline has passed and were we still interested in sending our child to their school. Egads. Imagine my horror when I realized that I had missed the deadline.

The cold, hard truth is that I’m losing the war against spam and my email inbox is beyond out of control. I get hundreds of spam emails a day, not counting the hundreds more that the spam filter catches. In addition, I get lots of email newsletters, I’m cc’d on some client communications, and unlike client work that goes through our extranet, new biz follow-up is largely via email.

I try to skim my emails every few hours, I beg the IT staff for more spam filtering, I diligently mark true spam as junk, I unsubscribe from what look to be legitimate newsletters that have added me to their lists, and I have a zillion email folders. Most importantly, as I scan/read my email, I try to handle each item just once by deleting unwanted stuff, responding instantly when I can, and filing other emails into To Do or To Read folders. All of this is still not working. I’m going to admit to the world that I have hundreds of unread emails.

The spam is the worst. We have an aggressive anti-spam software the the net admins are constantly tweaking. A few months ago, we tried to get more aggressive against spam by blocking email from email servers that were on legitimate blacklists, didn’t have proper DNS records (like SPF records and reverse DNS looksups), and/or sent emails with improper headers. This helped a lot but then we started blocking email from clients! Lots of them! It seems that setting up email according to the latest protocols is not yet widespread, so after some internal soul-searching, we loosened our email requirements and that allowed a whole lot more spam to get through. <sigh>

If I’m overwhelmed by email, I bet most other people are. So what does that mean for email communications, email marketing and personal productivity? My friend Ken Chaletzky, who runs Copy General, a digital printing company, says his company is seeing a surge in companies combining both print AND email marketing for higher conversions.I guess I’m not surprised.

Email is not going away and dollar for dollar, it’s still an amazingly effective and low cost marketing and communications tool. Every week, Matrix Group shows clients how to write effective emails, designs email templates and sets up discussion or broadcast lists. If we could just figure out how to minimize the spam, life would be grand.

So what happened to my son’s enrollment forms? The school wisely figured there would be a lot of stragglers so I was able to file the forms two weeks late and still get my son registered for next year. Phew. Thank goodness for the high touch phone call from the Director of Admissions!

How about you? Are you winning or losing the war against spam? What are YOU doing to better manage your inbox?

3 replies on “I’m Losing the Good War Against Spam and the Fight for a Manageable Email Inbox”

Migration of our email to Google has completely eliminated this problem, which previously was debilitating (and endlessly frustrating) to me as well. Perhaps due to the nature of your biz and related privacy concerns, this isn’t an option for you. I was resistant to the concept at first for exactly these reasons (granted, our client relationships are considerably less security-sensitive than yours), but this change to my online work environment has been revolutionary for my workflow/productivity. In the event this solution isn’t a viable option for you, I can only wish you good luck battling your email demons. :-/

On a related note, I highly recommend John Freeman’s (editor in chief of Granta) book “The Tyranny of Email.” It will manage to delight you with its historical musings on the evolution of written communication. It’s a fascinating (and oddly soothing) look at “how we got here.”

I have been using gmail for over 5 years now and don’t seem to have much of the spam problem. Its not like I don’t get any spam in my inbox, I delete whatever comes across as spam and use effective filters to root out any IP address that looks fishy.

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