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Best practices for e-mail management

A look at some best practices for e-mail management.

This article consists of some simple procedures that can be applied to help users manage the number of e-mail messages they deal with daily. Not only can it help users better manage their mail, but good e-mail management can also reduce the storage burden put on the Exchange server.

I have seen users mismanage their e-mail to such an extent that they do not even want to look at their e-mail anymore. For the administrator or home user, installing a spam server or blocker would greatly reduce unwanted e-mails from cluttering mailboxes. But other than that, there are some better practices for users to help manage their e-mail accounts. In this article I will look at the three main areas where e-mail management is a problem: the Inbox, Deleted Items and Sent Items.

Inbox

Apart from using the View button to customize views, users can further manage e-mail messages by creating folders for important messages. For example, if a user considers e-mails from John as being important he can create a subfolder under Inbox with John's name and when messages arrive in the Inbox after reading them he can manually move the message(s) to John's folder. In this approach the user has control over whether he wants to move the message to John's folder or delete it. The user might prefer to setup a Rule that would automatically move unread messages to a specified folder(s) that he creates. The setback to this approach is that unread messages would be scattered to various folders and the user may not get around to reading them.

E-mails with file attachments can quickly use up a lot of storage space. I recommend users save the attached files onto their hard drives but keep the message in predefined folders for referral.

Deleted Items

Messages stored in the deleted items folder could use up a whole lot of space if not managed properly. Some users prefer to set the option to permanently delete all files upon exiting from MS Outlook (for legal reasons) whereas some users would like to have a backup of messages just to keep around in the event that they might want to refer to these messages for later use. If a user's desire is to keep files in the deleted items folder I would recommend that he go to the properties of the deleted items folder then click on the auto archive tab. In here the user can set the time at which files will be permanently deleted.

Sent Items

Another storage guzzler is the sent items folder. Users can manage this folder by using the auto archive procedure mentioned earlier. Let's say a user sends an e-mail to an important recipient and some time later he rummages through the sent Items folder and is unable to locate it. As with the Inbox the user can create folders for important recipients and then create a rule that automatically places a copy of the sent mail in the respective folder(s) he created earlier.

If a user so desires, he can apply a color code to messages in: Inbox, Deleted Items and Sent Items folders in order to differentiate messages in the various folders. For example messages in the Inbox can be blue, Deleted Items red and Sent items green.

An example of how this can be done is as follows:

  • Highlight the Inbox.
  • Then click on the Organize button located on the tool bar.
  • Clink on using colors link.
  • Here you can specify a color to use for all messages in Inbox.

Many users neglect e-mail management because it is simpler to just not throw mail away, but a bit of planning and foresight can insure that their e-mail is easy to find, easy to manage and easy to store.


Adesh Rampat has 10 years experience with network and IT administration. He is a member of the Association Of Internet Professionals, the Institute For Network Professionals, and the International Webmasters Association. He has also lectured extensively on a variety of topics.


This was last published in January 2004

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