Electronic Messages are not meant to live in the inbox.
Originally, the inbox was meant to mimic its’ physical counterpart: a location to receive new messages before they are read and filed in a long-term location.
Generally, as soon as you receive a message, you should:
- Determine whether or not you are responsible for retaining it, AND
- Move it to an appropriately named file folder, OR delete it
- Determine whether or not you need to mark it for follow-up or create a reminder
Email is an electronic form of correspondence. As such, it is subject to the retention guidelines developed by your office in cooperation with the Records Management Program. If your office has yet to meet with the Records Manager, a good rule of thumb follows:
- Routine correspondence dealing with general administrative matters should be retained three years and then deleted.
- Correspondence recording significant transactions, projects, events, and operations should be retained in the office for seven years and then transferred to the Archives for permanent retention.
Some types of messages fall outside the scope of a general records retention schedule and may be deleted immediately:
- general bulletins and announcements,
- duplicate copies of messages
- meeting notices
- messages from mailing lists
- junk mail and spam
- personal emails
In order to determine whether your correspondence is significant ask yourself the following questions:
- Does the email establish policy or procedure?
- Does the email provide recommendation?
- Does the email describe administrative actions taken or planned?
- Does the email have legal or evidential value?
If you answer yes to one or more, the correspondence should be retained permanently.
For email correspondence, you are only responsible for saving the final message of a thread as long as the full text of the interaction remains intact.
- Retain the copy of the original email and attachment within the context of your email software on the email server
- Download significant attachments to a shared network folder.
- In most cases where the attachment has ongoing value, the email should also be retained as it supplies the date, sender, and recipients as well as a cover message. Maintaining a connection between the original email and its attachments helps ensure the authenticity and integrity of the record.
Questions? Contact us.
Should It Stay or Should It Go? Best Practices for Email management at Williams: Presentation by Records Manager, Jessika Drmacich, on email management and associated records practices