Some people keep their email forever, tens of thousands of emails sometimes, with occasionally embarrassing results. A strategy that works for me is to save only the emails that I’m required to keep by law or common sense.
Why you should purge useless emails
It isn’t a day planner
Email is a great communication medium but makes a terrible project management system or reference library. Items to be done belong in a todo list. Appointments belong in a calendar. Design notes and project requirements belong in a project diary or a design document: it doesn’t have to be anything complicated, just a simple text file.
Stepping through hundreds of emails to find your next action item is inefficient.
Can’t subpoena the nonexistent
Viramontes vs. U.S. Bancorp states a company is required to save emails only if litigation is imminent or reasonably forseeable. If you receive a subpoena, that’s considered a triggering event and you’re required to preserve all emails from that time forward. If there’s no triggering event then there’s no duty to save.
Unless you want a jury reading the intimate details of your life, it’s less trouble to hit Delete instead of Archive.
Email you should save
- Business documents: articles of incorporation, business license, tax permits, annual reports.
- Financial records: accounts payable and receivable, payroll records, tax filings.
- Business agreements: obligations to vendors, clients, and employees.
- Regulatory compliance: records that show you’re meeting legal requirements.