How Much Email Do You Store?

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Marty Koenig pointed a number of us toward a short article, “Stop Organizing Emails. Start Living.”  Simple post, quick to read. Short scoop, author has 30,000 email and feels there’s no need to manage an inbox. Just use Search to find what you need.

I agree with the general sentiment: Time spent achieving a zero-mail inbox can be better spent elsewhere.  Of course, one very obvious caveat is, with 30,000 email in your inbox, it’s awfully easy to miss ones you need be responding to (like that one from your boss).  Search doesn’t come with a “Tell me what I need to respond to” feature as yet.

Search doesn’t come with a “Tell me what I need to respond to” feature as yet.

Then, skimming the comment section briefly, I saw Marty Koenig’s response.  Marty also agreed with the sentiment, but largely because Outlook cannot effectively search his amassed collection of 108,000 email, dating back 10 years.

With later versions of Outlook, I have not had any issues whatsoever finding aged email. Part of the reason, admittedly, may be that I do not have 108,000 thousand email.

The flip side of the why create folders coin is, why keep all your email?

Once upon a time I kept all my email. Prime driver was simply CYA (cover your anterior). What I came to realize was, if I didn’t need to refer to an email in the next two weeks, odds were I probably would not; and, after a month almost never did.

jtpedersen_321-Ignite_emailYes, there are always exceptions, such as when keeping ‘reference material’ for long programs or sales cycles.

If you’re in business with potentially litigious situations though (and, who isn’t?) you do not—want—all your email hanging around. As much as it may help you, it can even more easily be turned against you. Same thing with instant messaging and other digital content.

Simple example. After releasing a former employee, we had cause to review the person’s instant messaging log. The log, printed out consumed an entire ream of paper, revealed a threatening discussing with a fellow employee.

That employee, with a prior history, discussed physically harming their manager one night after work.  For the company, finding the discussion was a positive: we could take direct and immediate action.  However had the employee not kept every message, the person might still have their job.\

How do you manage your email and other digital messaging, personal or professional? Does your employer enforce any rules? Do you follow a retention policy?