The added challenge of keeping up with email is not just keeping up with the never-ending stream of information but also keeping your email safely under your quota such that you can continue to receive email. Keeping your inbox under control can be more than just keeping your email working, but keeping your inbox free of clutter makes your life easier. People frequently complain that their email provider does not provide sufficient space and they inevitable go over quota, but the fact is no matter how much space you get, it will fill up eventually if you don’t practice good email hygiene.
Send fewer emails to yourself!
I see many instructors sending themselves email. For some this might be a valuable way to keep your life organized, but for most you’re just adding to the clutter and eating up space in your inbox. (The sticky notes on your monitor can be useful reminders but when you’ve got 10 of them covering every edge they suddenly seem a lot less useful, right?)
Consider what kind of message you send to yourself and if there are better ways? I frequently see instructors emailing themselves links to websites or news articles to refer to later. If that works for you as a system by all means continue, but I think many people might improve their lives (and their ability to find things they saved) by using bookmarking tools to save those links. Delicious is one such tool that is relatively popular and Academic Computing offers workshops on. If you are dealing with articles in library databases or other library resources you should absolutely be using Refworks to manage those resources in a substantially more effective way. Contact the library liaison in your subject area to learn more about how to deal with library resources.
If you send yourself general reminder messages (i.e. remember to pick up milk), don’t just write yourself notes, do what the notes say and then get rid of them! It’s amazing how much the average inbox is clogged with junk that was only of minor importance when it was sent months ago and is now nothing more than wasted space.
Email is not file storage!
An instructor I was working with told me their email went over quota pretty much every week. I asked what might be causing that and their answer was “well, I email myself a lot of pretty big PowerPoint files.” Email is a tool for communicating, not for archiving files. Chances are it’s not the hundreds of messages you receive that are just text, (a few kilobytes each) but a handful of messages with large attachments (5-10 megabytes) that will quickly push you over quota. If you aren’t using UDrive or an equivalent Web-based file storage tool, you probably should be. Not only will using one of these tools keep your email free of bulky files, but they offer a wide range of features for sharing and archiving files that are vastly superior to emailing yourself. The 15 minutes it will take to learn how to use UDrive will greatly improve your life and spare you the frustration of trying to clear out your inbox or locate misplaced files.
A related issue is receiving emails with large attachments from students and colleagues. I know one department head who inevitably goes over quota every time a major deadline comes up for his graduate students. Learn how to use UDrive for yourself, and then encourage your colleagues to use it. Receiving a link to a file on UDrive take up far less space than sending you that 10 megabyte word document with the latest draft of the grant proposal. It is also easier for colleagues to update that file and have the link still work rather than have to send you yet another email with a huge attachment. Again, these tools won’t just keep your email safely under quota, they have options for version tracking that will simply make collaboration easier and more efficient.
What other ways is your inbox getting filled up and what have you done to address it?
Useful Information about UMass Amherst’s UMail system: