Managing Emails as Records


We all use our email everyday for communicating with colleagues, but how many of us actually manage our emails?  Do you ever find you can’t send or receive emails because you have exceeded your mailbox limit, or find it difficult to locate an email when you urgently need it? There are a few simple things you can do to help to keep your mailbox within a reasonable size limit and to help you to find what you are looking for.

Mailbox Quota

The current mailbox limits for staff are:

  • First alert                              500mb
  • Unable to send emails            600mb
  • Unable to receive emails        1000mb

You should keep the size of your mailbox down by managing your emails as you would any other records. Consider whether or not you can delete some of your emails, or store larger emails and attachments in secure stored areas.

Managing Emails as Records

What is a record?

A record is the output or final statement that records the business and administrative transaction of the university and details about its students, members of staff and all external contacts.  It forms the ‘memory’ of the organisation, that needs to be available beyond the working life or memory of any single member of staff.

Examples of records:



Formal agreements

Approval of contracts, project plans, policies, etc

Decisions/confirmation of actions

Approval to spend money or to carry out a particular activity

Confirmation of completion

Project sign off, receipt of goods, etc

How Long Should I keep the Email/Record?

Ideally, determining whether you should keep the email will be based upon its content.  The University has a retention schedule which sets out the minimum retention period for different types of records. This does not mean that you should destroy the records after the specified time – simply that you can.  It’s often a matter of judgement and assessing the risks involved.

The University’s retention schedule can be found at:

A Few Simple Tips

Here are a few simple things you could do straight away to help you to keep your mailbox size down:

  • Delete all trivial emails as soon as possible – for example emails confirming time or locations of meetings, or anything you won’t need to refer back to in the future. You could move these out of your Inbox and Sent Items folders into to a folder called ‘Temporary’, and empty this folder on a regular (e.g. monthly) basis.
  • Emails or attachments that constitute a business record can be stored outside of Outlook – transfer them to your shared document area or filestore using the ‘Save As’ function.
  • Large attachments that are saved to the filestore can then be removed from Outlook – just open the email, right click on the attachment and then select ‘Remove’.
  • You could check the retention period on a certain folder of emails and add a ‘Delete By’ date to the folder name itself – this will help you to know when certain emails can be reviewed for deletion.

Other Tips for Managing Your Emails

If you’ve decided you need to keep an email, even if only for a short period, there are still a number of things which you can do to improve efficiencies and make things easier to find.



Change the colour of messages addressed solely to you.

Makes it easy to see at a glance which messages are addressed solely to you (often an indicator of messages requiring more immediate attention and action).

Add 'flags', change the colour or categorise messages from certain people or containing certain content.

Useful for quickly sorting, prioritising and arranging messages.

Create and name sub-folders to match your main shared filing system, ideally which reflect the classes set out in your retention schedule.

Makes it easier to manage your email in tandem with the other information to which it relates. It also makes resource discovery across systems easier.

Move an email into the relevant folder once you have acted upon it.  Use your inbox as a temporary ‘in tray’.

Assists quick and easy retrieval. Particularly of importance when responding to requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act or Data Protection Act.

Create rules to automatically move emails matching certain criteria into the appropriate sub-folder.

Acts as a useful default pre-sorting of content. It also helps to reinforce the value of ensuring that emails have accurate subject headings.

Save replies with the original message.

Useful for ensuring that both sides of a transaction (i.e. messages both sent and received) are captured and managed as one.

Further tips and guidance can be found at:

November 2011