Ok, I admit this openly: I am terrible about clearing out my inbox. As of this writing, I have 3,738 emails in my work inbox alone. My personal email inbox is even worse, boasting nearly 15,000 emails. This may seem like a lot of emails, but to many, that is a fraction of what’s going on in their inbox.

I know I’m not alone. For most, email has morphed from a messaging system into a mix of storage unit and rubbish pile. The creators of email never intended it to become a place of content collaboration, yet here we are. Email overload is not only a nightmare for end users, it’s a technical and security issue for system and technical administrators, who are trying to keep email servers up and running efficiently and securely. Eliminating inbox clutter then is paramount and should be a priority for both end users and administrators.

There are a number of ways to tackle this issue:

Organize an annual clean-your-inbox day: No one wants to slug through several thousand emails and organize them properly, but this is an essential behavior that can easily become a best practice. If a company sets up a yearly “Spring Cleaning” event, a time where all users clean, organize, purge, and clean out their inboxes, users and managers would be surprised at what they find – often a treasure trove of valuable assets they either hadn’t realized were there, or had misplaced. Further, it’s not uncommon to discover email with potentially dangerous attachments, making the task of cleaning out an inbox an important security measure, as well.

Set time at the end of your day to do a daily purge: This may be the best practice of all! It is much easier to manage email and organize data on a daily basis – a daily inbox inventory should take no more than 15 minutes. Moreover, most would be surprised how much information they’ve missed even over the course of one day.

Bold Move for Administrators: Ban the use of attachments in internal emails: While sometimes a controversial move, a ban on email attachments (whether across the board or by domain) can have a major and positive impact on email overload. Banning attachments prevents users from throwing just any piece of content “over the fence” into someone else’s black hole of an inbox and instead helps them become more collaborative in their approach to sharing content. Further, as email attachments are still the main propagator of malware, banning them will all but prevent malware from entering corporate networks. Lastly, by banning attachments administrators help force email back into its original function as a messaging service and forces users to use better tools for collaboration – tools that offer more secure and efficient ways to work.

Email inboxes do not have to be the proverbial black abysses where content, information, and potential malware lurk to ruin a user’s (and administrator’s) workday. By taking a few simple steps users and administrators alike can optimize the use of email, while enhancing productivity and system security. 

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