Email Management: 5 Steps to Clean-Up 

Many people traditionally work on deep cleaning — spring cleaning—when the weather warms up, and they can open the windows and freshen up the house. 

There isn’t a natural cue to keep your digital storage tidy, so it’s up to you to ensure you are cleaning out emails on a regular basis by (1) deleting what you no longer need and (2) setting retention on university records according to our retention guidelines.  

To learn more about retaining university records you can attend University Libraries’ Bits and Bytes Workshop, which offers practical tips and guidance for managing email and electronic records, including automating the retention and disposition processes. The workshop is available through BuckeyeLearn on dates throughout the year. 

To work on email management, here are some simple steps to help you get started: 

5 Steps to Email Clean-up   

1. Do not attempt to do it all at once. Start with today’s emails and move forward. Then gradually work on your email backlog.   

2. Set aside a regular time to delete and file messages. Smaller chunks are more manageable and less tedious. For example, schedule time on every Wednesday 2-3 p.m. or every day from 10-10:15 a.m.   

3. Permanently delete items in your “Deleted Items” folder. Don’t be tempted to use this as a temporary “filing cabinet” You will find that many of the tips below will apply to emails that are in the Deleted Items folder.   

4. Delete what you know can be deleted. This will make what remains to be filed less daunting. Once you are sure you understand the difference between records and Transient/Non-Record emails, there are some quick ways to slim down your email. Most of these items will be saved in your Inbox and Sent folders. 

  • Delete appointment and meeting messages: First sort by Type, select the first meeting appointment message, and then shift + click, scrolling down to the last meeting appointment message. Once they are selected, use the delete key to remove them (the official appointment is on your calendar)   
  • Look for words used frequently in non-record emails: Search by name and/or keyword such as “name.# and Starbucks” or “name.# and lunch” to weed out potential non-record emails between colleagues going for coffee, grabbing lunch, or taking a walk, for example.   
  • Delete emails that are copies from a University Application: If you can log into the system to see the information you need (eLeave, eRequest, IT help tickets, etc.), delete auto-generated emails notify you of an action or updates as soon as you address them.   
  • Discard university-wide announcements: While announcements sent by the university are useful for a specific period of time, most do not require long-term retention. Examples are public safety notices, construction alerts and Workday change notifications   

5. File messages that you need to keep. Once you have deleted everything that does not need to be retained, you can file what you know must be retained. Filed messages can be placed in folders to automatically be archived or deleted based on parameters that you set.  

Why Email Management is Important 

The legal implications of smart email management are the most important reason to establish good habits. If you mass-delete emails, you may inadvertently delete data that you should retain. but most of us need to be mindful of what we keep and delete. Setting up email archiving and using retention tags will give you access to data for as long as you are required to retain it according to university retention schedules while also automating disposition once the email’s usefulness has expired.   

In addition to the legal implications of email management, there are storage considerations as well. Whether on-premises or in the cloud, storage has some associated cost. Like most universities, Ohio State launched Microsoft 365 with vast amounts of storage. However, as storage use has increased so have the costs. Each of us will need to ensure we are only keeping emails and files that need to be retained. To prepare for the future, we need to consider our email footprint now, and make changes to ensure that storage is being used for business items that are a priority for the university.   

Outlook Clean Up: Managing Email 

There are strategies to managing data that is sent via email, and University Libraries has extensive information on email management and records retention in general. The information presented here was drawn from Libraries’ existing documentation.  

  • Not all records are equal in value or retention period. The retention period for each message is based upon the content and informational value of the message, not the technology through which it is transmitted or stored. 

  • Ideally, email should not be the primary method of storing or archiving documents, but rather a way of transmitting them between parties. When email is the only place the information content is found, each user is responsible for ensuring compliance with appropriate retention schedules. Now is a great time to become familiar with how these policies impact your email.   

  • The key to effectively managing emails and electronic messages is to be proactive. If you delete the non-records and transient/transitory records that have outlived their administrative value, what remains is the small percentage of records, sent or received, that retention schedules require to be managed on an ongoing basis. 

  • You can set up folders for these messages according toOhio State's General Record Retention Schedules or request your unit’s unique schedule. 

In future articles, we will delve into information about applying retention tags and setting up automatic archives. Both features will help you optimize your email storage and comply with university retention policies.