I have a lot of digital records. Not a lot by, like, Library of Congress standards – but more than most of the folks that I know personally. I try to maintain an email INBOX without a scrollbar – such that I have perhaps at most 20 messages hanging out at any given time. The two primary mechanisms I use for this are:
* If I’m saving it to reply to it “when I have time,” I go ahead and start the reply. Generally, I’m done with the reply before I feel the time crunch. Seriously, I used to spend more time worrying about how long it would take to write an email than actually writing the message. The “to do list” school of INBOX management is pretty silly – to my eye.
* I sort things that I ‘might’ need into a cunning array of folders. At the top level are things like “home finances”, “family and friends,” and “work.” Below those we sort by individual, by project, and so on.
My observation is that I very, very rarely go back and access any of these old messages. The ones I access are almost invariably receipts or password confirmation emails from various websites. The rest are just a big dusty heap. They’re indexed, yes, and electronically searchable …. but why do I keep them at all?
Am I thinking that perhaps I’ll write my memoirs? That maybe I’ll need a reference on that one time the technolope said “yeah, I’ll get the fish today?” I feel like I’m wasting energy here.