Blatant email abuse.

More of a ‘rant’ than anything, but I’m constantly amazed at the (lack of) organization that people keep – or don’t keep, really.


I was getting a new desktop machine configured for a co-worker today, which also means installing the usual applications, such as Office 2007.  Typically, I have the user logon to their profile shortly before the “hand off” so that I can configure their email, printers, and a handful of other things.

Anyhow, in getting Outlook 2007 dialed in for this particular user, I’m greeted with slower-than-typical experience – especially when dealing with the Outlook “cached mode”, which downloads a local copy of their mailbox.  As I investigate, the issue-at-hand becomes readily apparent: this user has too much email.  What exactly is “too much”, you ask?  Well… how about a tad over 12,000 items in her Inbox alone!  How about 39,000 items, if you count the Inbox subfolders as well?  I understand that we are archiving more and more email these days, but this is ridiculous.  She had messages in her Inbox (not just subfolders) dating back to early 2006! 

Honestly, people.  DELETE SOME EMAIL.  It’s ok.  Really.  It is.

Here are a few tips from someone who tries to keep their email neat n’ tidy…

  • Empty your ‘Deleted Items’ folder.  That’s where things go that you’ve deleted.  It’s not for saving stuff.  Do you keep important things in the trashcan under your desk?  I thought not.  I realize that sometimes you accidently delete stuff that you need, but how often do you need to recover something 2 months later?  How about this: set your Deleted Items folder to empty itself of anything older than 1 month.  That’ll work well.
  • Don’t use your Inbox as an endless email repository.  Most users spend about 95% of their email time in the Inbox proper — meaning not the subfolders beneath your Inbox, if you organize in that fashion.  Keep it trimmed.  Personally, I try to keep my Inbox to a single viewable window only – meaning no messages below the fold.  It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a goal to shoot for.
  • Keep on top of things.  Most Inboxes are full of junk – plain and simple.  Why?  Because people don’t keep on top of things and the junk piles up.  Don’t be afraid to shift email off to other folders, delete them, or trim a long email thread (no… you DON’T need all the messages of a 22 message thread!).  Take a few seconds to discern whether or not you’ll ever need that email again.  If not, delete it.
  • Organize.  I’m not the most organized person in the world, but compared to some I’m reaching near genius levels.  Desktop client software like Microsoft Office Outlook allows for very good folder management.  Use it.  Create top-level folders that make sense, and then create sub-folders underneath them.  I’ve seen mailboxes with 50+ subfolders beneath the Inbox itself where only a few of those subfolders relate to one another.  So frustrating.
  • Use Search.  Most decent email programs these days have excellent search capability, and it ought to be used.  That said, the ability to search quickly and easily is no replacement for a well-organized mailbox.  Having both is the ideal situation!

Got some other tips n’ tricks for keeping your email organized?  Feel free to share ‘em in the comments. 



7 Responses to “Blatant email abuse.”

  1. 1 Josh April 9, 2009 at 4:22 pm

    Organize my email? Isn’t that what IT guys are for?? *preparing to duck from attempted slap on the head* lol

    PS – is your building a shack or a monument to modern architecture? Better move into a shack…

  2. 2 yipcanjo April 9, 2009 at 4:34 pm

    Thankfully, the building I work in *IS* more or less a shack! It’s not quite that bad, actually, but it is rather old. In the 2001 Seattle earthquake, this rickety old place actually faired pretty well! Still, I’d hate to be here during an intense earthquake 😦

    Thanks for making me sweat my work-day just a bit more, though! 🙂

  3. 3 Josh April 16, 2009 at 3:12 pm

    Shoulda stayed in Illinois my friend. Nothing but safe black dirt for as far as the eye can see! lol Okay it’s a little boring. 😉

  4. 4 yipcanjo April 16, 2009 at 4:09 pm

    Well… I didn’t have a whole lotta say in the matter, seeing as I was about 1.5 years old when we left 🙂 Still, ol’ Illinois is always good for a visit now and again…

  5. 5 Josh April 17, 2009 at 10:56 pm

    Yeah, that was purely in jest. 😉

  6. 6 ejo May 5, 2009 at 10:34 pm

    I hate to say it Scott, I had emails back to June 2006. I just deleted the 2006 folder. At least I organize them. It reminds me that I need to keep better organization of my emails.

  7. 7 yipcanjo May 5, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Emails from 2006 in your mailbox or Inbox? I’ve got REALLY OLD EMAILS that I need to keep, but not in my Inbox, you know?

    I’m not saying that people shouldn’t be keeping old email. Some stuff is important. I’m saying “keep that Inbox clean”! There’s just no reason to have 3+ year old emails in your Inbox.

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