Top 10 Ways to Purge Your Email Inbox


In January 2013, I noticed I had 7,555 email messages in my Outlook inbox. I remember it, because the number caught my eye and I kept getting alert emails that my account size was close to its limit. You can only ignore those alert emails just so long before, while sending the most important email of your life, you press send and… nothing. You try sending it again. Nothing. That’s what happened to me.

At that moment, I made a commitment to reduce that number by 100 every month throughout the year. As of today, I am at 5,209. Okay I may have gotten a little overzealous, but my email administrator doesn’t grimace every time I pass him in the hall now. Especially since I stopped bugging him about increasing my email account file size limit.

A Great Start
Depending on your company’s email client, policies, and capabilities, archiving your email is an obvious great start. I haven’t had the best luck with this process, so I deal with the consequences. If you’re not an accomplished archiver either, here are a few more purge techniques you can try, along with some pointers on how to avoid a large inbox in the first place.

The End of the Road
When I started my email inbox purge last year, I figured a good start would be emails from former employees. At Global Knowledge, we have more than a few employees with more than 15 years here, which is amazing for a company less than 20 years old. We also have our share of folks who have gone on to other companies. Some of those folks actually work for our partners now, so I didn’t go through their email exchanges as harshly as the ones with former coworkers who changed industries. One guy now markets children’s clothing. Select all and delete.

Friendly Free For All
Unfortunately, some great friends have left our company as well, and while our email exchanges on the funniest viral video of the day, many Rick-rolling attempts, and Taco Tuesday lunch notifications were all in good fun, they had to go as well.

Gratuitous Subhead Referring to How Size Does or Does Not Matter
Outlook will let you sort by size and you’ll be amazed who has been emailing you oversized files. Our HR department loves to send bright and colorful, sometimes graphically rich, emails that I tend to keep because, after all, they’re from HR. But, the email detailing the insurance benefit changes for 2010 is long outdated, as is the 5-megabyte PDF attached to it. It’s time for you to go.

Beware Serial Large Emailers
If you get one large email from a particular user, you’re probably getting several from them. Maybe a quick lesson in how to optimize or reduce PDF file size in Adobe Acrobat might be beneficial for them as well as everyone in their address book. Perhaps you could explain to them that large PowerPoint files fit nicely on a SharePoint server. Or, simply tell them: Just send me the link next time, please.

Email Responsibly
So what if you are the serial large emailer. There’s help for you. Outlook allows you to search your Sent folder by size as well. If you regularly work in PowerPoint or the Adobe Creative Suite programs and share those files with others, chances are it’s not them, it’s you. Check yourself.

Double Trouble
Maybe you forwarded a large file from someone else mistakenly. Even so, it’s still sitting there taking up space in your Sent folder as well as the original in your inbox. If it’s important, keep one. If it’s not, delete both and double the benefit.

Go Old School
2009 was a great year, but if you have an email older than five years, you may have a problem. Delete it today.

She’s Just Not That Into You
It’s almost unthinkable, but yes, some emails you send will not get a single reply. While it’s a great way to access possible followups, going through your sent email folder can be a kick in the ego when you realize who isn’t responding to you. I say ping those folks again if you feel strongly enough about whatever you were suggesting or asking in your original email, but if not, kick these emails to the curb and look elsewhere for the answers you seek.

A Balancing Act
There is no reason to keep every email you receive in a day. Probably 90% of the emails I receive each day I delete immediately. Don’t tell my boss. To keep a busy email account under control, you’ll have to start thinking the same way. Here’s an email from the provider of a webinar I listened to recently which now has an awesome recorded version to listen to at my leisure. Deleted it.

Searching for other unneeded oversized files will not only reduce your email count, but it will also reduce the chances you’ll ever surpass your email account size limit. If your account does go over your allocated size limit, you will probably be unable to send or receive emails. Believe me, that always happens at the worst possible time.

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