Are you a Digital Hoarder?

By Communications

Thanks to the popular A & E television show Hoarders we’ve learned about the behavioral condition that leads people to compulsively save, well, everything. The show features

Photo: TLC

unlivable homes stacked and overflowing with stuff.

There’s another kind of hoarder, though. The person who, on the surface and by all visual accounts isn’t a hoarder at all; this person may be a digital hoarder.

One of my clients sheepishly admits to this behavior. She has emails in her inbox from 2008. (It’s currently December, 2011). To find any kind of correspondence in that archive she needs to do a virtual Cirque du Soleil move and frequently is still unable to locate the desired content.

The correspondence is layers deep, mostly disorganized and completely overwhelming to her but she’s been, thus far, unwilling to let go of those electronic files and clean out her communications storage shed.

We’re making a date in 2012 to stage an intervention and get her on a better path of managing her email communications. I’m a big believer in the “touch it once” approach. There should only be three possible actions for any message:

  1. Respond immediately and file
  2. File and flag for later response
  3. Delete

I’m also a big fan of extensive filtering and rule-creation to automatically manage a ton of incoming messages. It’s effective, efficient and makes for a much more productive method of communicating via email.

I told my client, “I’m going to improve your life,” and I mean it — she’s about to experience lots of time and peace, away from the stress of all that digital junk.

Are you a digital hoarder or do you know someone who is?