Quotas and email

It may seem odd to start with something on tools, but team effectiveness follows from personal effectiveness in the same way as team leadership flows from personal leadership. And given that most of us spend most of our time (far too much of it, truth be told!) in email, that seems a good place to start.

Why oh why oh why do our IT teams insist on setting quotas on the size of our inbox? It’s not even as if storage costs very much these days, is it? But this state of affairs does persist, and so here are some thoughts on what you can do. I’m not going to give precise details, as not everyone uses ‘outlook’ but you’ll get the idea.

First off then, we need to establish what eats our quota. It’s key to understand that the quota is for your whole mailbox, not just the inbox.

Obviously the inbox is the main culprit, but have you checked recently to see how big your sent items, deleted messages, trash and junk folders are too? The least obvious quota-consumer is the calendar, which in outlook at least, is included in the mailbox. So if you get appointments from people with the relevant slides attached, beware! That file containing 5Mb of graphics, pictures and the like, is in your calendar folder. It may be helpful to have the slides attached to the invite so they are easy to find, but it’s quite a quota-feast in there.

You may be super-organised and have created some folders within your mailbox too, but these are also eating your lunch quota-wise. [I can’t check right now, cos I’m writing on an iPad, but I’m pretty sure that a nifty right click on the folder name will give you an ‘information’ option that will show how much space any of these beasties is eating].

So, what to do? Simple – get all that data out of the mail system, by creating (again, in outlook) a local mail file. Pretty sure that it’s File/New/Personal folder. But I’m sure you can find it. This option allows you to create a mail folder on your local drive (or maybe even the cloud, if you have access from behind that corporate 50-metre high and deep firewall !) I recommend that you name the file with the same name as the folder, just so you can find it easily. Also make a note somewhere secure of the password if you decide to use one. Last of all, to compress or not? I’ve never tried, but my guess was that doing so would slow things down, your mileage may vary.

What this does is give you a local file that outlook connects to when you start it up. Now again, I don’t know the very latest reason, but it used to be the case that each of these connections took an allocation of memory at startup of outlook. So don’t go crazy with 100s of them, and keep them small. Oh, and do make sure that they are locally backed up – they’re outside the mailbox remember?

So now all you have to do is create some off line folders, and move your messages out of the inbox. If CYA is your thing, then you may want to create folders such as ‘Sent March 2012′, into which you drag everything from your sent items folder once a month. Hey, you might evens do the same for deleted ones. The good thing about keeping saved ones this way is that you can find stuff really easily even a lot later on.

Oh, and get folk to use a centralised storage mechanism for shared presentation files. Even a basic share point is easy to stand up these days, and you’ll be being a good corporate citizen by reducing duplicated files. If you can’t do that, then when you get an invite with attached files, save the files locally and delete them from the invite.

Now you’ve got the idea, this is a really good time to think about sorting your filing out. Read ‘Getting things done’ or checkout Mervin Mann on 43folders.com for some excellent ideas. My fave has to be naming your mail folders the same as your physical ones, the ones in Evernote www.evernote.com etc.

Hope it makes the difference you seek.

About the Author Jonathan Rees

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