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Managing Email as a Record


Email is a popular form of communication and as such makes up a substantial portion of records created by campus employees. Email messages sent or received in the course of business transactions are University records and must be retained and managed for as long as they are needed for administrative, fiscal, legal, or historical requirements (see the email decision chart). As with other records, the Campus Retention Schedule (CRS) offers guidance for retaining email; the key is to match the message with its purpose as described in the records categories listed in the CRS.

The term "email" can be used to refer to the message, the system that distributes the message, or the server that stores the message. An email message includes the message content, transactional information associated with the message, and any attachments. A message becomes a record when it is used in an official capacity and includes information on the conduct of University business. Such records need to be managed with and in the same way as other records. Personal and ephemeral messages should be retained only as long as needed and then deleted.

Email messages need to be organized for legal reasons as well as business reasons. Messages can be used as evidence in legal proceedings, demonstrate important decision-making processes, and be used in future research into the history of the University. As with other records types, email messages should not be destroyed if they're subject to legal action. 

Responsibilities

The responsibility of managing email messages as records falls to each employee; however, office with high-level decision making responsibilities have increased duties to ensure such content is properly managed (see Common Message Disposition). Records liaisons can help in determining what emails are important to keep and who has that responsibility. Managing email can be a cumbersome task, particularly for individuals who receive large volumes. The following suggestions can help.

Managing & Organizing

There is no right way to organize your email—find what works for you. Understanding if an email message is a record can help you determine how to manage and organize the message. Upon determining the purpose of the message, you can then reference the CRS. For understanding if a message is a record see the email decision chart.

Strategies

Some strategies and practices for managing email include:

  • Deciding at the moment of receiving or sending a message what's to be done with the message (delete, file, etc.)
  • Allocating sufficient time each day or week to read through and take action on email messages
  • Prioritizing which email messages need to be dealt with first
  • Using the CRS to create folders or tags for filing emails and assigning rules to manage the information in that folder
  • Looking at the sender and the title to gauge the importance of the message
  • Flagging where you have been cc'd into email messages. These messages are often only for informational purposes and do not require immediate/any action
  • Setting rules for incoming messages so they can automatically be put into folders
  • Using folders or tags to group email messages of a similar nature or subject together so they can be dealt with consecutively
  • Identifying email messages that are records or need to be brought to other people's attention
  • Keeping email messages in personal folders only for short-term personal information. Emails that are required for longer purpose should be managed as records
  • Deleting email messages that are kept elsewhere as records (see Common Message Disposition)
  • Deleting email messages that are no longer required for reference purposes from the "inbox" and "sent items" folders