Throughout my career deleting emails is something I’ve struggled with. Part of me feels like it’s important to keep a “digital record” of everything everybody has sent me in case I need to refer back to it, or even worse need PROOF that something was stated. Here are 7 reasons why to break this (decidedly) bad habit. These aren’t really in a particular order so I’ll let you pick your OWN top reason.
1. Human Search Speed
This is the same general idea as above but this time applied to the wetware. I’ve always been very good about using folders to organize emails pertaining to a particular project or client. However, who among us won’t admit that it’s easier to visually scan through a list of 20 emails versus 200. Even if you ARE using a filtering scheme to lessen the amount of results it’s just plain easier to find what you’re looking for in a shorter list.
2. Computer Search Speed
We all know email servers (and servers in general) are becoming more and more robust. But no matter what “magic” your hardware or software is performing it’s going to take less effort to sift through a dataset with 1,000 records then one with 100,000. So regardless of your email provider or your local email program, having less is more in terms of performing a search.
3. Some (Many Even) Have No Value Over Time
I’m not going to mention any names but recently I was helping a friend with an Outlook issue and noticed that they had a whole folder devoted to a person who hadn’t even been with their company for 4+ years. Worse yet the bulk of the email contained in this folder contained meaningless messages like “I’m going to lunch at 1”. Or “Yes, I think I can have that done by Tuesday”. All this clutter does… is add clutter.
4. Truly Valuable Content Should Exist in a More Formal Project Document
If the email contains key information about a client or project it should REALLY exist in a more formal document then an email. I’ll say it right now… thinking of your email account as your “library of everything I ever need to know” is a TERRIBLE habit. Having information in a project diary or brief makes it more centralized and organized. Not to mention as people come and go in a company (which is natural) so do their email accounts.
5. Local System Performance
Beyond search speed, the more email your local email program has in-memory, the less you have for the rest of your OS. It will also take longer for your email program to start up initially and syncing with the sever will be more complex. Also, even though hard drive space is cheaper than ever, having enormous amounts of local email will make your backups take longer and will eventually grow to unacceptable sizes. Again no names but I’ve seen a local mailbox grow to over 20GB! If you were on a fancy new solid state hard drive this would be a big chunk of wasted space. Also having worn the hat of IT support it’s much easier to migrate somebody to a new machine that has 10,000 emails vs 100,000. The sync is just plain quicker.
6. An Old Email Won’t Always Save the Day
The idea that you can call on every single old email you’ve ever sent or received to “save the day” is not realistic. With so many clients, and so many communications, the chances of you remembering every email you’ve ever received are pretty bad. And then even if you do somehow recall who it was from or a rough idea of the content it contained, good luck. This might work a couple months out… but as time goes by you are less and less likely to find what you’re looking for and you’ll end up wasting precious time.
7. Because you wouldn’t keep all that mail in “real life”
This is a little different than the rest, but imagine saving all the physical mail you’ve ever received! Sounds ridiculous right? It would take up too much space and in most cases would offer little to no value (unless you wanted to start camp fires nightly or something). Well guess what… THIS IS TRUE OF EMAIL TOO.
If you have more reasons against (or for) hording email, we’d love to hear them.