Several people have asked this over the last few days. The short answer is that I treat sent items the same way I treat deleted items — I don’t organize them, but just let them remain in their folder permanently in the event that I need to refer to one in the future. If I do need to access one down the road, I simply use the search. If my sent items gets too full, I archive it.
If there is an email that I send that will be of long-term use, whether because it defines a policy or it articulates some thoughts that I want to keep handy, then I save the email into my “Documents” folder and organize it along with the rest of my electronic files. If it seems easier, then sometimes instead of saving the email itself, I’ll paste the contents into a Word document and then save that.
There are about two principles guiding my thinking here:
- Conservation of time. I find that the frequency with which I look back at my sent items isn’t sufficient to warrant the time to organize them.
- Consolidation of content. When there is something I will need for significant ongoing future reference, it is simpler to have all of those files in one spot rather than two. So I keep all such files in “Documents,” rather than Word/Office files in “Documents” and emails in email folders.
Here are some further thoughts on that last point: The way in which something was created (whether by email or some other program) is not relevant to the way in which it should be organized. What’s important is the content.
Keeping all like content together is more important than keeping all emails together. So long-term emails get filed in “Documents” with other Word and Excel and etc. documents that pertain to that particular department or topic. (And again, I am very, very selective about which emails I file into “Documents.”)