Hi! I’m Brad Houston, UWM’s records officer, and I’m going to talk to you today about email management. As you’re preparing to get your account ready for the change from PantherLink to Office 365, it’s more important than ever to make sure your email is in good order, both to make the transition faster and to allow you to quickly determine if you’re missing anything. To put it another way, The o365 team wants you to clean out your mailbox to make their job easier; I want you to do it to make YOUR job easier. These tips are intended to help you prep your account for the O365 migration, but really they’re just best practices for email in general.Now, notice the subtitle of this talk. A lot of people say that records managers just want people to destroy everything so that none of it ends up on the front page of the Journal-Sentinel. I’d say that’s about half right. Certainly if you genuinely need an email, you should hold onto it as long as you need it. But the reverse is also true– keeping email can slow you down while you look for the one or two emails you need right now. There was a McKinsey report in 2012 that found that the average employee spends as much as NINETEEN HOURS each week reading, writing, and searching through email. We can do better!
So let’s take a look at the universe of email. The five categories shown here– non-record, transitory, routine, other record, and historical– are the 5 main categories of email I’m concerned about for retention purposes, and this chart shows *roughly* the proportion of each. Notice that I don’t have exact figures on here—that’s deliberate, because everyone’s individual situation is different, and there are no hard and fast figures about how these break down. What you should take away from this is that the vast, vast majority of email you get is not a record and can in theory be destroyed immediately. Of the remainder, you’re only going to hold on to the green sliver and the orange sliver for any length of time, which means most of even your “record” emails are going to be destroyed.Now, the question I usually get at this point is “how do I tell which is which?” Which is fair– you don’t have time to sit down all day and figure out “oh, is this transitory, is this routine, etc.” So let’s break these categories down a bit more and see how to tell which is which.
First, non-records. These are going to make up about 70% of what you get in your email box, and in fact that figure might be conservative if anything. Now, actual SPAM, of course, is going to either be sent directly to your spam folder or you’ll recognize right away. But what about all those mailing lists you’re signed up for? All your professional listservs? Any of those emails that your subordinates copy you on as a heads up? *None* of that is a record, *none* of it gives you any obligation to keep it, and *all* of it is taking up space in your inbox. Get rid of it, or at least funnel it off to its own folder. Of course, if you *do* need it for reference purposes, sure, go ahead, keep it. But try to keep it somewhere it won’t get in the way of your active email, and you should think about exporting it periodically to keep it from gumming up your account.
Next is transitory email. I use 5-hour energy for the picture here because Transitory email sort of has the same functionality– you get a lot of use out of it right away, and then it just sort of hangs around in your system making your sort of sluggish until you get rid of it. This is definitely a record, because it has to do with your activities in your job, but it’s not a record with a lot of staying power– if you’ve ever sent out an email trying to coordinate timing for a meeting, or just replied “yes” to an in-house question, you know what I’m talking about. To think about it another way– 6 months down the road, is this email going to have any relevance to what you’re doing? If not, it’s probably transitory, and you should get rid of it once its effective date has passed.
Next, Routine email is sort of the “bread and butter” of most people’s accounts– it’s the email that you need to keep because it relates to a particular project or issue you’re working on, but it doesn’t necessarily have a lot of long-term value beyond that project. You can think of routine email sort of like the old paper chronological files offices used to keep– you need to be able to show that you’ve done due diligence in responding to a customer or giving feedback on a report, but the correspondence that is created isn’t of much interest to anybody but you and them. So for email like this, you should generally put it somewhere where it can hang out for about 6 months once you’re done with it, then delete it. In Outlook you can automate this process to an extent– look for training on that when O365 rolls out.
There’s another category of emails that fall somewhere between routine and historical, and that’s any email that falls into an existing records schedule. For example, the library recently started allowing us to put in leave requests via email. When my supervisor gets one of those emails from me, he is obligated to hold on to that email for the 5 year period for leave requests. He doesn’t necessarily have to keep the email in his inbox– he can export it, save it to a desktop folder, print it out, whatever– just so long as he can produce it on request within that 5 year time frame. Student correspondence is another good example of this kind of record– you need to hold onto it for at least a year for grade appeal purposes. So, when an email belongs to an associated series with a records schedule, follow that schedule first.
Last, we have historical email, which is the email which you DO have to keep– but the fact of the matter is that there just isn’t that much of this kind of email in most people’s email accounts. In fact, unless you are the head of a department, division, or other unit, you very likely don’t have any email that falls into this category– this is a category specifically reserved for emails that set policy or document a decision. There are, of course, exceptions, such as when an email pertains to a relevant historical event on campus, but for the most part the emails put here are few and far between.Now, with these emails, not only should you export them, but doing so is the only way to get them to the archives.
So, this is an enormous task, not helped by the fact that you’re continuing to get deluged with email every day. I don’t have time in this presentation to go through all of the tips to manage your email, but here are some quick hits. First, use filters! If you can find a common thread in a group of emails– e.g. they all come from the same domain, or they all have key words in the subject– you can make rules that move emails automatically from your inbox to a folder, or even delete them altogether. This is much, much easier than manually sorting through everything.Next, use folders to group like materials. More importantly, use folders WITH DATES in the title! This way, you can look at a folder and instantly say, “hey, this is from 2012, I only need to keep these emails for a year, I can get rid of all of these all at once.” Now, the important thing here is that if you have too MANY folders to choose from you’re not going to do it, so my advice is to have about 6-7 “active folders” and when you’re done with putting stuff in them move them to a lower folder level so they’re not crowding your inbox.I also suggest using something called the “touch once” method, which means once you get an email, you either respond, delete it, or file it IMMEDIATELY after you get it. It’s tempting to use your inbox as a to do list, but that way lies messy inboxes and overwhelming accounts. You CAN create tasks from an email by right-clicking on them, which is a much better way of dealing with emails you need to respond to, but not right now.Last, I cannot emphasize this enough, you need to be merciless when culling your email. If you take nothing else from this presentation, it should be the following line: “If in doubt, throw it out.” If you mess up and realize you need an email later, all of your email hangs out in your trash for 30 days, so you can get it back– but this is a limited time offer!
This is a copy of the flowchart included in your handout, and gives you a *greatly* simplified decision tree about email disposition. For the sake of making the flow chart work right I ask you to go in this chart from the longest to shortest retention times, but the important thing to remember here is that the vast, vast majority of email you get is not going to be a record and is going to go right to the bottom “delete” box. The other side of that is that usually no more than about 2% of email is classed as “historical” and needs to stick around forever. So you’re almost never going to use that box. Still, this chart is intended to be a visual reminder of what you do with which email, and I hope you’ll use it. Pin it up by your computer, memorize it, blow it up and put it on your door so you can see it from across the room, whatever. Now, I realize a lot of you live out of your inboxes, and it may not be practical for you to go and clear out 80 percent of what you’ve got in there. I’m guilty of this too– I tell people not to use their inbox as a filing cabinet, but I do it anyway. Luckily, there’s a solution that lets you hold on to emails *and* reduces load on UWM’s system…
As a rule of thumb, if you think you will need to hold onto an email for an extended period of time, but you haven’t referred to that email in 6 months or more, you can usually export it, which is to say that you take it out of your active email account and put it on a fileshare or hard drive to refer to later. There are a couple of ways to do this, which I talk about on the Records Management website in greater detail.PantherLink does in theory have a native export function, but the file it outputs is hard to read and harder to use, and so I don’t recommend doing it this way. A better way to do it is to set up an email client, such as Thunderbird or Outlook, and download the emails that way, either through moving them to local folders, saving individual emails, or Outlook’s “Autoarchive” function.
The last time I did this presentation, the immediate question was, “How do I set up an IMAP account?” Good question! There’s a help page on the UITS site, and it looks horribly complicated to set up from that info but it really isn’t. Basically this is a three-step process. Step 1 is to pick your client, or program to read your email; there are a number of them out there, but since we’re moving to Office 365 soon anyway it might be a good idea to use Outlook. If you’ve got Office 2010 or 2013 installed on your computer already. If not, download your client and install it.Step 2 is to add your account, which most clients let you do through an option on the file menu called “add account” or similar. The screen should look like what I’ve captured here. You’ll put in your email address with your domain name and in a lot of cases the program will automatically configure the settings. If not, you can do manual setup the settings you need are at the link here– it says “mobile applications” but it’ll work for your desktop too. You want to select “IMAP” and make sure you enter both the incoming and outcoming servers, which for UWM are two different servers.Step 3 is to put in your username and password when prompted, so the program can sign into your account. Once it does, it downloads the email headers so you can get the previews of all the mail in your account, and downloads the message when you want to read it. That’s it! There’s also a way to move emails into an archive file on your computer, but I’ll hold off on that until the O365 formal training.
So that’s about it. The last thing I just want to say about this is that if you try to do it all at once, you’re going to get discouraged and not do it at all. So just carve out a few minutes a day to go through and cull the emails that you don’t really need, and before you know if you’ll have a clean inbox. You’ll find stuff more easily, you’ll get better performance from your email client, but most of all, you won’t have all that email hanging over your head, which really is a huge load off. What’s more, it means it takes less time to convert your mailbox to O365, which is a nice bonus.
Thanks for listening, and please take a look at the other email and e-records guidelines on the records management website. Please don’t hesitate to send me an email or give me a call if I can help you manage your email in any other way. Thank you again.
Email Management for Office 365 and Beyond
EMAIL MANAGEMENT FOR
O365 (AND BEYOND)
Or, “How I learned to stop worrying and delete
most of my email”
THE EMAIL UNIVERSE
• Proportions are not exact
• Your specific proportions may
• If you need an email for
reference, keep it
• SPAM, E-Lists, Emails you’re
CCed on, Personal
• May be useful as reference
• NO OBLIGATION to keep under
ACTION: Delete or Export on receipt
conversations, transactions with
• Paper analog: Chrono Files
• Continuing use, but rarely after
transaction is completed
• Limited retention requirements
ACTION: Delete 6 months after end of
• Correspondence with
records, grant info
• Paper analog: “regular” files
• Ongoing active/inactive use
• Retention according to
ACTION: Retain for length of associated
RRDA, then destroy
• Sets policy/precedent, decision-
making, historical events
• Ongoing value to the history of
• Unless you are the head of a
department/division, you likely
don’t have *any* of this
ACTION: Export and send to Archives
SO HOW DO I SORT THROUGH THIS?
Filters to move lots of emails at once
Find the common thread!
Folders with dates in title
A reminder to destroy on time
“Touch Once” method
If you overdelete, you can get
emails back for 30 days
“BUT I STILL NEED MY EMAILS…”
6 months since last referral: Time for
Few different export methods
NOT RECOMMENDED: Native via
RECOMMENDED: Through an IMAP
If you have historical email, do this
before sending it to archives!
SETTING UP AN IMAP CLIENT
Download your client
(Outlook, Thunderbird, Mailbird, etc.
“Add Account” (usually in File
Settings instructions for UWM at
Have your PantherID and Password
ABOVE ALL ELSE…
Don’t try to do it all at once! You
WILL get overwhelmed.
Take 5-10 minutes each day to
Clean Inbox: easier to migrate AND
quicker to find what you need!
Brad Houston, university records officer
Archives Dept., UWM Libraries