Right or wrong, email is my newsfeed. It’s my RSS reader. When I find a blog or site with interesting things I want to read on a regular basis, I don’t search for the link to add to my Google Reader account. I don’t keep some of the highly recommended newsfeed readers on my tablets or phones. I look for a “subscribe me” link.
Why “clutter” my inbox with lots of newsletters on everything from sustainable design, product development and technology news to dog toys, the National Corvette Museum and Kentucky politics?
Because my inbox (or inboxes if you want to consider each device as it’s own view into the abyss) has a very special feature that makes it work for me. The Delete Key.
I can open up an email, decide it it’s interesting and hit delete in just a second or two. I can decide I don’t have time and am willing to not open an email at all if I’ve been offline, just to quickly clear out my inbox. Boom! Gone. Click, click, click. Three more gone. I never have to look at them again.
While being at “inbox zero” (that mythical state where you don’t have anything in your inbox) is a goal that I occasionally hit, I don’t mind being at a steady state of between 100 and 200 emails in my inbox. I am hardcore about being at zero UNREAD emails, meaning I have opened everything and if it wasn’t instantly filed away or deleted, or is part of an ongoing conversation that I want to engage in, I don’t leave unread email sitting around. I read it or delete it.
The budding minimalist in me occasionally barks that I’ve subscribed to too many things, and that some blogs and newsletters are digital junk mail that I’d be better off eliminating altogether. Perhaps. There’s certainly some truth that digital makes it easier to tolerate the mental clutter. However even the items that only have occasional use more often than not provide interesting perspectives and enjoyment. Making my input, narrowing my gaze too much feels too constraining to my creativity. It’s too limiting.
I find the my Facebook and Twitter feeds are constraining in their own way. Sometimes it’s the “echo chamber” effect where everyone is just repeating the same story, the same links over and over. Otherwise the rapid nature and “stream” quality of each means that’s it’s hard to go back and “swim upstream”. To search I have to know what I’m looking for. To keep scrolling back and back means I am looking over things that don’t interest me. There’s no delete key to get it out of the way.
Email works for me. It’s on every device I own. I can do it anywhere, at any time. I can dip into a fountain of interesting ideas, or wipe them away with a click or a tap.
What do you use to bring new ideas to you each day? Subscriptions? RSS Feeds? Twitter? Facebook? What’s become your method for managing the kind of random, inspirational input that helps you be creative?