Stop deleting your email
When talking about email, I hear anecdotes from people using the “delete” key to progress through reading their inbox. Presumably, this instructs their mail reader to delete the messages. Permanently. It makes me shiver each time I hear it.
Why on earth would someone do this?
An email that you have processed (read or replied to) isn’t trash. It is reference material. It is history. It is information which has been (in part) absorbed by your brain, and at least seemed important enough that you looked at it in the first place. Unlike many other forms of person-to-person communication we receive and process on a daily basis, it is digital. This means that it can be copied and stored forever without losing any information.
I’ve been saving virtually every (legitimate) email that I receive for some years now. When I’ve finished with a message, mutt automatically saves it to an archival folder without me having to do anything. It’s actually less work than deleting it (which requires a keypress). I only delete spam and other content which is truly useless to me. This adds up to under a gigabyte of storage per year. A few dollars worth of hard drive space is sufficient to hold all of it.
Every day, I refer back to messages I’ve read. I refer to more recent messages more frequently, but go back three months or more on a regular basis, to refresh my memory, to pick up on an old topic, or to provide context to someone who is joining a discussion. It is bewildering to me that this information is thrown away by so many people.
I also don’t ever have to decide whether something is worth saving or not, and this helps me process email faster. I can relax, knowing that I can always find it again if I need it.
So, why do you delete your email? Is this a by-product of using your inbox for archival, where anything which might be useful stays there forever? Is it just the simplest way to put the information aside when it no longer seems important at the moment? Do any modern mail readers lack the capability to archive messages for you? Do they not make it easy enough? Is it a habit which transferred from paper mail, where storing it is impractical for most people?