Feb. 10th, 2012

Old emails

Feb. 10th, 2012 08:11 pm
nickbarnes: (Default)
I receive many thousands of email messages in my main work account (not counting my Climate Code Foundation account, which lives on gmail). It used to be a lot more (see statistics below), but it's still a huge number. For the last decade or so I have two main rules in dealing with email:
  • 1. Never, ever delete a message: every message ends up in an archive folder; [I learned this the hard way, by deleting important messages. Disk space is free, more-or-less.]

  • 2. Archive personal, public, and work messages in separate folders. [Also learned the hard way: when leaving a former job, I essentially had to leave my whole digital life behind.]

So how do messages get into folders? Any incoming message which I don't have to act upon is filed immediately when I see it. Everything else (maybe 10 to 20 messages on a typical day lately) goes into my "outstanding" folder, which acts as a to-do list. A lot of those I deal with and refile soon afterwards, but some form part of a long-running conversation and hang around in "outstanding" until they are resolved, and sometimes I don't get around to refiling them: they get buried under the flood.
So every once in a while (once a month, ideally) I go through the top few hundred messages in "outstanding", weeding messages to the archives. But despite this, maybe fifty messages in any given month get left behind and the folder steadily fills up. If I am particularly rushed or stressed, even this cleaning-up process doesn't happen, and "outstanding" bloats.

It's been hovering at about 10,000 messages for the last couple of years, and this week I had had enough (five-digit message IDs are depressing). On Wednesday morning and this morning, I went through the whole folder, looked at every message, and refiled ruthlessly. I have 400 messages left, almost all from the last four months.

This was an interesting and challenging process, travelling backwards in time over the last decade, cleaning out dense knots of the past from particularly difficult periods. 2008/9: dealing with the forced move down to Surrey. 2006: grieving for my parents and trying desperately to keep my marriage together, and learning the hard way that it takes two. 2003/4: childcare challenges when my wife started work away from home and the local schools were failing our younger child. 2000: a babe in arms, and a little boy on chemotherapy. All cathartic, but I'm not surprised I've been putting off this spring-clean for so long.

For any geeks in the audience, here are stats since 2003, from my mail logging system:

2003 12,311 97 MB  End of year only
2004241,8681,650 MB1,90420 MB
2005305,5972,698 MB2,22015 MBLife before spam-filtering: 800 messages every day!
2006202,4392,543 MB2,06730 MBSpam-filter introduced at the end of 2006.
2007 58,241 765 MB2,38620 MB
2008 64,217 947 MB2,47836 MB
2009 50,518 788 MB1,40612 MBMailing list reduction as work changes
2010 44,3831,501 MB2,16742 MB
2011 27,0262,484 MB1,096 6 MB(fewer, larger messages)
2012 2,583 79 MB 169 5 MB(to date).


nickbarnes: (Default)

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