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Archives and Records Management: Email Management

Managing Email

University business is often conducted through email and as a consequence many email messages are University records.

What are University records?

Generally speaking, a University record is recorded information created or received by University employees undertaking University business and maintained as evidence of that activity. In the case of email, communications that document actions or decisions related to University business are University records.

To assist in identifying emails as University records ask whether the following apply: 

  • Was it created or received in the conduct of University business?
  • Does it document or facilitate:
    • a function of the University;
    • an action taken or a decision made;
    • the formulation of policy or decision-making process;
    • a change to organization policy or procedure; or
    • does it have financial or legal implications (i.e., does it relate to a contract, grievance case, or personnel file)?
  • Does it need to be approved by or reported to another individual or internal or external body?

Tip: When retaining a series of replies or forwards, keep only the last message as long as the thread is complete and hasn’t been changed in the course of the exchange. Also, retain information in the header regarding the sender, recipients, date and time; this helps preserve the context of the message.

The email system is not a recordkeeping system. Remember that if you leave KAUST your email account will be discontinued and access to such records will be lost. 

  • If you have an electronic recordkeeping system, file email (and attachments) in that system. SharePoint or your office Shared Drive/Network may be your only option.
  • If you have a paper-based recordkeeping system, periodically print and file the email (and attachments) and then delete them from the email system.

How Do I Manage Email?

It is best to dispose of emails as soon as possible, while the subject and content are fresh in mind. I recommend applying a modified form of the Eisenhower Matrix:

Eisenhower Decision Matrix

Once you open an email message, decide what you are going to do with it before you close it:

  1. Do it now, i.e. make the decision required of it;
  2. Decide on a time to do it later (Defer);
  3. Delegate the decision to someone else; or
  4. Delete the message if it is transitory.

Modified Steps of the Eisenhower Decision Matrix

After reading a message, determine if a response or specific action will take two minutes or less. If so, do it. (File, respond, make a call, etc.).

After reading a message, determine if a response or specific action will take more than two minutes of dedicated time. If so, defer it until you have the necessary time to undertake it.

If you are working in Outlook take advantage of the ability to flag messages that you chose to defer. Using the proper tools to flag or label email messages can help you find them later so that you can determine whether action is still required. You can also add email messages to your “To Do” list by dragging the message to your "Tasks" list.

After reading a message, determine whether you are the right person to respond to the email. If not, delegate it to someone who is better placed to respond to it.

The majority of emails sent and received have only transitory value. They have no administrative, legal, fiscal, or archival retention requirements and can likely be deleted as soon as they have fulfilled their reference purpose. Examples of such email messages include:

  • Preliminary drafts;
  • Routine replies/requests for information;
  • Emails sent as reference or for informational distribution;
  • Emails used to set-up or accept meetings;
  • Announcements; and
  • Acknowledgements.
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If You Are a Manager

If you are a manager you might wish to:

  • schedule a quarterly or yearly records cleanup time for your office;
  • maintain in your new employee checklist a reminder to orient them to records responsibilities;
  • establish an office procedure for setting up shared email accounts or OneDrive folders that allow access to email by others in the office in case of absence; and
  • establish general email protocols which ensure that everyone in the office is managing their email in the same way.

When an employee separates from employment:

  • the employee’s manager, supervisor, or unit administrator should work with an employee to develop a plan for determining which email messages should be preserved for business reasons or in accordance with University Records Retention Schedules and which records may be deleted;
  • arrangements should be made to transfer the email that must be retained to another employee or recordkeeping system.

University Archivist and Records Manager

Chris Graves's picture
Chris Graves
Contact:
Bldg 12, Rm. 2129
808-3639