Best Practices: Managing Email

Love it or hate it, all of us have to deal with email. Here are some pointers, tips, and reminders about our work email accounts.

Did you know we have a current email policy that’s part of our employee handbook? It’s still relevant, and it’s something we are required to follow. (

How can we make our emails better? Here are some suggestions:

Best practices for working with email:

  • How often should I check for email? Email at work is important – it’s a primary communication method for the library, so you should check for new emails regularly. What does “regularly” mean? Check at least twice a day, then respond appropriately – the “Five D’s of Email” will help with that!
  • The Five D’s of email. Read the new email, and then do one of 5 actions with that email:
  1. Delete it. If it’s informational, spam, a reminder, a joke, etc. Read it then delete it.
  2. Do it. If it takes less that 2 minutes. Does the email need a quick reply? Does someone need some info from you? Is it a meeting invite? If you can respond in 2 minutes or less, just do it. Then delete it.
  3. Delegate it. Should someone else do this? For example, someone might have sent the email to you, but someone else is the best person to answer it. In that case, send it on. Then delete it.
  4. Defer it. If the response is going to take longer than 2 minutes, put it on your task list as an action item, schedule a meeting, etc – whatever is needed. Create a folder for that project/meeting, and put the email there. If you aren’t sure how to create a folder in Outlook, ask one of our excellent trainers, or ask Digital Services for help.
  5. Direct it. There are probably some emails that don’t easily fit into any of the other categories. You might need to keep an informational email that’s connected to a project, for example. For those emails, create a folder for your project, and store the email in that project folder.

Reminder about Sent Items and Deleted Items Folders: Every 3-4 months, I go through my Sent Items folder and delete things farther back than that. Then I delete everything in my Deleted Items folder.

Sometimes a Sent Item is important to keep. For example, I sometimes need to keep emails connected with a technology project. If I need to keep the Sent Item email, I move that email into my project folder.

Attachments – use sparingly

Did you know you don’t have unlimited email space? Most staff have 2 GBs of storage for email. Attachments eat up that space fast!

When you need to send an attachment with an email:

  • Instead of sending a Word document memo, just type the memo in the body of the email. No attachment needed.
  • Instead of attaching files to the email, store the file in a shared folder, and point to that folder in the email.
  • Images and large attachments take up more space in your email account, so pointing to those files rather than attaching them to an email saves you (and our Email server) much-needed storage space.

Work email for Personal Use

Yes, our Employee Handbook says you can use work email for limited personal use. In today’s modern world, it’s better practice to create a free Gmail or Yahoo email account for personal use. I’d suggest doing that for your personal email needs.

And a reminder – work email is owned by the library, and is subject to Kansas Freedom of Information / Sunshine laws. Another reason to keep personal emails out of your work emails.

Do you need help organizing your email better? Let me know, and I can connect you with someone who can help.

More reading on better email management:

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