Wednesday, February 10, 2010

28 Days To Living Organized - Day 10 - Email: Delete & Archive

28 Days to Living Organized

Email: Delete & Archive

Have you wrapped your mind around INBOX ZERO yet? It might take awhile to get used to the idea.

But the first action suggested is one everyone can do, even if you don't intend to have an empty inbox... Delete and Archive.

What should you be deleting? Junk mail and spam, obviously.  But what else?

  • Email forwards, jokes, and urban myths that you have no intention of passing on.  And I recommend not passing these on.  I love humor.  But unless you know the recipient will appreciate that email with 42 pictures of cats doing yoga poses then please, please don't pass it on.  Delete it.  Save your space for things that you really want to keep.
  • Sale "flyers" for items you don't plan to buy.  Yes, you love all of the items at your favorite store but your budget is tight right now and extra shopping isn't in the cards.  Just delete it.  Don't open it and tempt yourself with that too-good-to-pass-up 25% off coupon code.
  • "message received" emails.  Someone asks you for a document.  You send it.  They respond with the two word "thank you" email.  Get rid of it. 
  • Anything that is past its expiration - library hold notices, sales that ended, reminders for an event that happened yesterday, etc
  • Emails that have resolved themselves.  You were copied on an email to a group.  You haven't checked email in *gasp* 4 hours and in that time the other 3 ccs managed to come up with the answer and solve the issue. 

What should you archive?

This is trickier to answer because it will depend on each person and the purpose of your email account.  Keep things that you will need to reference in the future.  Sounds easy right?  Not so much.  It might include things like...

  • recipes - but once you've tried them either decide to delete because you didn't like it or put it in your real recipe file/book
  • feel-good emails - anything that makes you smile when you read it.  A sweet note from your hubby, a picture of your grandchild.  These are things you can refer back to when you are having a bad day.  But be choosy what you put in this category.  Make sure it's really special.
  • anything related to taxes - of course it's best to keep this information in some kind of backed-up electronic file and/or hard copy.  But keeping an email archive of it isn't a bad idea.  This includes receipts for electronic charitable donations
  • "CYA" emails.  You know the ones.  You're working on a big project and Jim Bob in another department decides to throw a wrench into the plans.  And you're lucky enough that he put it in writing in an email.  Keep this so that when things go wrong you have information that supports your theory on what happened.
  • Kudos emails.  These are the ones you want to pull out and review before your next performance review so you have proof you are doing a great job.
  • Backup documentation - anything relevant to a project you are working on that you wouldn't want to lose.

Of course, the categories of things you might want to archive is highly variable depending on your needs.

The real question is... How should I archive?

Do you like folders or just one big archive folder?  As Merlin Mann would tell you, keep it simple.  Don't make this complicated.  If you are using Microsoft Outlook you can assign a category to your emails.  You can then pull up all emails assigned to that category even if they are in the same "Archive" folder. 
Even easier, most email tools include a comprehensive search function.  It will search for your keyword(s) in all folders.  You're looking for the email about John's retirement party you can search on "retirement" and find it in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

If you insist on making folders, I again ask you to keep it simple!  And please, don't file by date.  You know you sent Suzy an email about how to retrieve voicemail but was that last week, last month or last year?  You probably can't remember.  Date files rarely work for most people.  Instead come up with a few broad categories. You can always use that search feature I mentioned above.

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