Following are some words that Andy Rooney says cause him to toss envelopes in the wastebasket without opening them:
- Important. Rooney says that if an envelope contains the word important, you can be sure it isn’t.
- Urgent. Not!
- Do Not Discard. Intimidating ploy.
- Open Immediately. This tells you that you need not be in a hurry to open it … that is, if you should choose not to throw it away.
- Time-Sensitive Material Enclosed. Same as above.
- Current Occupant. How dumb would someone have to be to open an envelope that has “current occupant” printed on it?
Finally, Rooney says that he throws out any envelope that’s from a real estate agent — especially if it has the agent’s picture on it.
Most junk mail is written by great copywriters, so it’s no wonder that the writing on the outside of an envelope often tempts people to open it. The issue isn’t whether or not there might be something of interest, or even of value, inside an envelope you’re tempted to open. We see a lot of interesting and valuable things all around us every day, all day long.
The real issue is time. Your working hours should be spent primarily on projects that produce cash flow. As human beings, we all have unlimited options (even if we sometimes don’t realize it) but very limited time. Because of this reality, a huge part of success is a result of making choices about what to spend your time on. About the only thing you can do that is worse than opening a piece of junk mail on the spot and immediately reading it is to put it aside to be read at some later date.
My experience is that the future never quite arrives when it comes to having the time to read junk mail, the result being that it tends to pile up. Which not only causes subconscious stress when you see the piles of unread junk mail lying around your office, but also tends to cause important documents to get lost (i.e., become hidden under piles of other pieces of junk mail).
The one exception I would make to all this is if you have a serious interest in the science of marketing, and especially if you’re a copywriter. In that case, you would be justified in opening, on a discriminating basis, the junk mail that looks most intriguing to you.
But this should not be done in a casual manner. For example, if you’re a copywriter, studying other people’s copywriting ideas should be viewed as a serious and integral part of your business. Thus, you should take the time to carefully read and study the contents of any envelope you deem worthy of opening.
Having said this, I often find that after I’ve read a paragraph or two, the mailpiece isn’t really that good. Whenever you make such a discovery, don’t feel an obligation to read the material all the way through to completion. Come to an abrupt stop, toss the mail piece in the wastebasket, and get on with whatever projects you believe have the best chance of producing cash flow.
And, when in doubt, demonstrate the self-discipline to err on the side of not opening a piece of junk mail at all. There, now I’ve gone and done it — made Andy Rooney into a legitimate time-management consultant.