How to Keep Your Email Inbox Under Control: Rules for Keeping Your Filing Cabinet Tidy

As stated in my previous post, the general “rules of engagement” for email management are:

1. keep your inbox clean (as in empty, or as close to empty as you can)

2. keep your filing cabinet(s) tidy (as in keep only emails that have real value) and purging it from time to time

In my previous post, we discussed the rules for keeping your inbox clean. In this post, we look at the rules for keeping your filing cabinet tidy.

Purge Your Filing Cabinet

Keeping your email filing cabinet tidy is just as much a challenge as keeping your email inbox clean. In fact, both require the strictest discipline.

As it relates to your filing cabinet, you must first discipline yourself to only keep emails that have real value and have the inner fortitude to delete all the others.

Second, you must cultivate the discipline of purging your filing cabinet from time to time. If you never purge, your cabinet will expand indefinitely, and the more it expands, the harder it’ll be to locate your important emails.

Purging isn’t as simple as it seems; many people keep saving more and more emails but never take the time to purge. Once you archive an email in your cabinet, it’s easy to forget about it and let it collect dust there.

The purpose of your filing cabinet is to archive emails you need for reference purposes (i.e. store valuable emails you need to refer back to). Thus, it stands to reason that, when you no longer need to refer back to a specific email, it should be deleted.

To keep your filing cabinet tidy, you must purge it from time to time. You can purge it as often as you want. I recommend twice a year: when you do your digital spring cleaning and in the fall when you prepare for the third and fourth quarter of the fiscal year.

You can also use the new calendar year (January) and the beginning of summer (June) as your purging seasons. It’s not the moment you choose for purging that matters most. Doing the purging is what matters most. That demands strict discipline.

In short, periodically, go through your filing cabinet to ensure you’re only keeping emails that still have value.

How Long?

Here’s an important question. How long should an email stay in your filing cabinet? The simple answer is: “As long as it needs to” (i.e. as long as it has value).

However, the practical answer is: “If you haven’t touched the email for two or three years, the value of the email is questionable.” In other words, you probably don’t need the email anymore, and thus, should delete it.

I organize my filing cabinets by “fiscal year”: each fiscal year, I create a new filing cabinet. It makes it easy for me to delete filing cabinets are 3 years old and older.

Purging your filing cabinet isn’t easy, but it’s necessary—even if only so you would familiarize yourself with your filing cabinet’s content.

About The Author

Vladimir Elie

I help people learn and apply success principles and strategies so that they can get the results they want in life.