Life without Email–automating the email tax

I’ve seen a few posts this week talking about the merits of email and the handling of our seemingly overwhelming inboxes. The general consensus seems to be that we get too much email and it’s not worth our time to read and process every last one.

For those battling with email, I thought I would share my latest setup. Every few months I have a large email purge, usually forced by the “your mailbox is almost at its maximum size” email. Each time I do a purge, I try to think of a way to reduce my email tax, and automate as much as I can – using tools and techniques from GTD etc. The outcome from each purge is that I generally spend less time each day processing email, and more time actually doing the things that matter.

So here is what I have in place right now:

  • Inbox has a auto archive (which just deletes) policy of 2 months. I’m working up the courage to switch to just a few days here. Honestly, if I haven’t responded, or moved the email to Action/Wait For or Someday in 72 hours, I probably won’t.
  • Sent items has 1 month auto archive policy.
  • All emails to DL’s are stored in a DL folder with a 1 week retention policy. There is one DL exception, which contains the team I support and is a mini-action item folder.
  • Action items have a 1 month retention policy.
  • Wait For & Someday items have a 3 month retention policy.
  • I have a reference folder which as no retention policy as well as a business folder with a 1 year retention policy.
  • Outlook clears deleted items on exit.

How do you handle your email?