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Email Is Temporary; Create a Folder for It

phone with email symbols

I have been using Gmail for work email since the email client launched in 2004. Maybe it’s because of all the years I’ve been using Gmail. Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been sending and receiving big files. Perhaps it was just bound to happen one day.

I ran out of storage space in Gmail.

How could this happen? We’re given 15 GB of storage space! Google told us that we’d never have to empty our inboxes again. We could search for an email and it would be there for us.

Clearly I tested the boundaries of the search giant’s promises. But I know I’m not alone on this. I’ve talked to others, and they too fill up the space their email client gives them. Even email clients hosted by companies, like Outlook, eventually run out of space.

I tried improving my email hygiene. I deleted emails and emptied the spam and trash folders a little more regularly, then dug back to the beginning and started deleting old messages—do I really need that receipt from 2007?

It helped, but I was still amassing more emails than I really needed. So a fellow editor shared a tip to manage all those new messages.

Create a “temporary” folder.

Freelance editor and organizing champ Lori Paximadis suggested creating a folder (a category in Gmail) named “Temporary” and setting up auto-filters for it. You email client will automatically add emails that you need only for a short time to that folder.

What kind of items would you add to your Temporary folder? Try:

  • Away messages
  • Receipts you don’t need to keep forever
  • Delivery notices
  • Automatic payment notices
  • Appointment reminders
  • Confirmation notices
  • Password reset notices

You can then delete those emails on a regular basis. And instead of hunting for them through all your other folders or searching by keyword, you know to find them in the Temporary folder. If you find that you keep referring to an email long after you thought you would be done with it, you can always move it out of the Temporary folder to a more permanent location.

I picked up an e-filing system from Paul Lagasse, which also includes temporary folders. Paul suggests deleting anything at least six months old that you haven’t looked at, deleting on a monthly schedule. I’ve applied that habit to my email and it works beautifully.

I’ve been using temporary folders for all my email accounts for over a year now, and it’s made managing my inbox easier. And while I still have over 8,000 emails in my inbox and I had to buy additional storage space anyway, I’ve at least purged anything I don’t need prior to 2015.

And at least I know some emails are hanging around only as long as I need them to.

What’s your favorite email management tip? Share it with me in the comments!

Originally published on June 15, 2018 on Copyediting.

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