Are You an Email Hoarder?

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Your personal communication lifeline is the almighty text. You’ve not heard your best friend’s voice in two months. You and your significant other have created your own language using only initials and symbols. You’re even trading emojis with your grandmother on a daily basis. But your job still demands complete reliance on emails.

Emails drive your workday and shape your workload. You have a good grasp on email etiquette and never make “reply all” mistakes or lose your cool and type responses using all caps. But life still seems oddly out of control and you are overwhelmed.

That may be the result of hanging on to too many emails. It’s possible you’ve been in denial about this for years. You may even lay awake at night wondering just how many thousands of emails are haunting your system. Perhaps you have run into data storage issues. Perhaps the “Search My Email Box” feature is no longer useful and you feel you are drowning in communication clutter. If so, it’s likely you are an email hoarder.

If you recognize yourself in any of the following email hoarder scenarios, do not fear. Help is available.

I’ll need this someday. Just as the traditional hoarder hangs on to clothes, household articles, or other useful items, you have strong ties to any and all communications that you deem necessary for your job. Many of your emails probably do contain helpful information or documentation of events and ideas that are important.

Suggestion: Create file folders within your email platform and, on a weekly basis, save the latest email in each communication chain, deleting the earlier versions and saving only the necessary attachments.

I can prove everything. Do you often find yourself trying to “win” email exchanges and demonstrate your knowledge and extraordinary contributions regarding particular initiatives? If so, you may be hanging on to emails only to use them as weapons against your less detail-oriented colleagues.

Suggestion: Trust yourself and others to have some command over the facts. Use your email system’s flagging tools to tag emails needing a response or those where you’ve circulated completed tasks, deleting the nonessentials.

Tomorrow is another day. Are you contemplating getting it together someday in the future when you will finally delete hundreds of old emails and live a clutter-free life? If so, you may feel you don’t have the time to clean up your email space even if you know that by doing so you will make life easier and more efficient.

Suggestion: Block out time for an assessment of the situation and seek help. Your IT department may have tips and tools that can help you locate and delete or store emails from years gone by.

If you’re an email hoarder, take comfort in knowing you are not that annoying worker who can’t account for his/her time and expects others to provide information or documents they’ve not been able to track down. That said, there is a healthy middle ground in the email game, and you should be aware of what you need and what is simply clutter.