It’s a popular last resort for many entrepreneurs and business leaders, but why has the drastic measure of email bankruptcy become so prevalent in modern business? 

Email bankruptcy is the act of purging your existing unread email “debts” and starting from scratch, i.e. deleting every email you’ve not read and starting from inbox zero.  

Clearly an act reserved only for the unruliest of demanding inboxes, this form of bankruptcy is employed by innovative executives and leaders from market-leading brands, including HootSuite’s Founder, Ryan Holmes

With more studies and stories highlighting how much email has taken over the working world – such as the recent French law protecting workers’ rights to ignore emails outside of work – is email bankruptcy a viable option for achieving the “inbox zero” dream of efficiency or just a dramatic shortcut?  

“It’s a frank admission that email has gotten out of hand, as well as a pledge to manage your communications more effectively.” 

Extreme measures 

Deleting hundreds on emails in one go? Seems a bit over-the-top, right? 
Advocates of email bankruptcy stress that it should not be used as a lazy answer for quickly getting rid of emails you can’t be bothered to check nor something to do regularly. 
One of the more vocal entrepreneurs on the topic, HootSuite’s Holmes, treats email bankruptcy as: “a frank admission that email has gotten out of hand, as well as a pledge to manage your communications more effectively.” He and many others are keen to emphasise that this is not about admitting defeat, but a proactive step in getting your house in order, with a clear vision to improve in the future. 

The thought process is that by removing everything and starting again, you have a clean slate to manage all future messages, without the distraction of the demoralizingly endless deficit waiting in the inbox. 

“Sometimes we need to be realistic about how many emails we can practically get through.” 

Any messages that were drastically important or needed an urgent response are likely to be chased up so, theoretically, nothing major should get lost in the purge. If it was already lost inside a messy inbox, what is the harm accepting you’re not going to “get around to it”? 

Provided the processes is thought through, you’ve given notice to frequent contacts and you have approval from upper management, then email bankruptcy may bring order to the chaos that is an overloaded inbox. Although, if you are looking to become a more productive, focused businessperson, email bankruptcy alone is not enough. 

The real issue 

Regardless of whether you believe email bankruptcy is a viable option or not, the fact that it has even become an option reveals a much larger issue regarding email in the modern workplace. 

If your email inbox has become too overloaded and tasks are being delayed as a result is deleting all your emails going to tackle the root problem? Is this process a long-term solution to regulate how much we rely on our inboxes for virtually every process within a business, despite how limited it is as a messaging platform? Probably not. 

Email was developed in the 1980s for memos, yet has been adapted for a broad range of roles it was never really designed to do. Simple questions turn into long email chains and business leaders get trapped in cc’d cycles; that’s just for internal communications. 

Urgent notices get lost amongst the noise of conversations we’ve been wrongly copied into. Tasks that should take a quick 5 minutes get delayed and build-up in the backlog of spam. Needless emails from colleagues, marketers and even the software we use distracts from the messages that need attention. 

When did our reliance on email get so bad that we have to delete them all to keep on top of them? Perhaps it’s time to find a solution that helps lighten the burden? A new way to separate the messages that can wait and the actions that deserve attention? 

The alternative 

E-mail isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. As a symbiotic parasite that has truly ingrained itself into global working culture, too many business processes are reliant almost entirely on email as the means of communication. It’s one of the most effective ways to communicate with external contacts outside of the organisation. 
In order to effectively and realistically improve operational efficiency, businesses need to adopt innovative solutions that work alongside your existing processes to diversify how we send and receive notifications about various events and actions. 

Forcing all communications through the primitive channels like email or phone calls is not conducive to modern business. 
Similarly, looking for one solution to replace email will not only risk missing important messages sent via email, but also makes that other platform vulnerable to becoming just as overused. 

Managers looking to bring greater productivity to their companies need to demand a workplace messaging solution that’s as modern and easy to use as the messaging apps we use outside of work. 

Developments in chat clients like Slack and HipChat have drastically helped to liberate internal team conversations from email into a logical, messenger style channels, freeing the inbox from these high mail yield conversations.  

Messaging integration software like Heed allows businesses to connect communication with their enterprise software and separate the process focused events that require action so they can be automated outside of email. 

Divide and conquer  

The solution, therefore, seems less about filtering messages within email, but rather filtering messages through different channels to alleviat1e the amount going into the inbox in the first place. 

Rather than keep struggling with email deleting, our efforts would be much better focused on updating messaging so it matches the technological advancements of most other areas in business: 

  • How about solutions that synchronise directly with the software systems your enterprise uses on a daily basis? 
  • How about messages that leave your inbox if the problem gets fixed before you reopen the issue to chase it up? 
  • How about notifications that let you complete a task within the message? 
    How about messages that turn 12 messages about the same issue into one clear and concise alert? 
  • How about unavoidable notifications for high urgency alerts that need fast action like a security breach? 

There are modern solutions out there; we just need to be willing to change our working culture and embrace them. Maybe then, we won’t have to declare bankruptcy as we’ll be profiting in productivity. 

Looking for modern messaging alternatives? 

Integration software allows organisations to automate their business processes with intelligent communications that synchronise with the popular business apps you use daily.
Heed makes sure processes and tasks are managed, not missed, by delivering the right information to the relevant people with modern, actionable communication technology.

Email us at to discover how automated processes and intelligent communication can change your business for the better.

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