How to survive a complete email meltdown


Earlier this week, our Exchange email server basically exploded. A few hours later we had email send/receive capability again, but it took a couple more days before historical data was back. That basically meant that all of our folders, contacts, calendar, any saved emails – all weren’t available for 3-4 days.

This was painful, but with three important best practices, 90 percent of required work could continue while past data was recovered. If you’re not doing these three, I highly encourage it. Losing your email isn’t a matter of if, but when.

Don’t use your inbox as a to-do list
If your past emails went away, would you know what to do? Where to focus? An inbox is a highly inefficient way to organize and triage your work list anyway. After all, email is mostly other people sharing their priorities with you. Sometimes those are joint priorities, but keep your own priority and to-do list separate from email.

Don’t use your email folders as a filing system
I’ve done this in the past (largely due to laziness) and it’s burned me. If a document is attached to an email and I think I’ll want it later, it’s far better to save it in a more organized system outside of email. Keep it in both places if you want even greater storage redundancy, but don’t rely on email uptime to have access to important documents.

Keep a daily, offline snapshot of everything in Outlook
Key to keeping myself more efficient the past few days has been an “offline” record of Outlook from a few hours before our Exchange server went down. This way I still had access to a snapshot of my calendar, emails in my @Action folder awaiting follow-up, etc. The fact that I always keep Outlook in “offline” mode (so I can control the flow of inbound emails/distractions) is key to this.