RIMM: Tips for Weeding Your Email

"Tackling my inbox (2/365)" by David Green, Creative Commons: Attribution 2.0. It's April again and that means Records and Information Management Month (RIMM) is here.

The Smithsonian Institution Archives is not just a repository for maintaining and preserving historical documents.  The Archives also provides records management services to staff across the Smithsonian.  One of those services is to provide staff with tips for organizing their records.

In a previous RIMM post ("You've Still Got Mail"), Electronic Records Archivist Lynda Schmitz Fuhrig discussed some ideas for keeping email organized.  This year, I'd like to elaborate on her post and share our tips to staff for minimizing the size of email accounts.  Although geared towards business email, this advice can be applied to personal accounts as well.  Before applying it to your work email, don't forget to check with your place of employment to determine if it has its own policies and procedures.

The Archives generally recommends that the following types of email can be deleted by when no longer needed for personal reference:

  • Messages received via a distribution list, listserv, or automatic notification system (this includes most emails related to your social media accounts)
  • Messages received from another staff person to which no reply is required (for information purposes only)
  • Messages received on which you were simply copied (not the primary recipient)
  • Calendar items received or sent (before deleting a future calendar item, do a "test" delete to determine if deleting it from the inbox/outbox also deletes it from your calendar)
  • Messages received forwarding a link or attachment with no additional substantive content (save the link or attachment outside of the email system first, if appropriate)
  • Messages received or sent which are captured in threads of later messages
  • Jokes, advertisements, and spam sent or received
  • For work email, any personal email sent or received

    Once you've deleted much of the email types above, you'll likely be surprised at how little is left.  Don't stop there though.  Periodically scan through your older email.  Chances are that you will find quite a few messages that were important for a short period of time, but no longer have any value.  These might include logistical emails for an activity that has already happened or new contact information that is no longer accurate.

    The less extraneous email you have, the easier it will be to find the email you need.  And if you have a size limitation on your email account, these tips should help you keep well within that limit.

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