Illinois Email Footprint Challenge

Technology Services at Illinois is challenging faculty and staff to a friendly competition to see who can create the smallest email footprint by clearing out old messages. During the second annual Email Footprint Challenge, we are asking everyone to spend a little time deleting any unnecessary messages including those in Sent and Deleted folders.

Prizes will be awarded to the top individuals and the top department with the greatest reduction to their email footprint.

Final Results

The results are in! Nearly 575 GB have been deleted collectively with almost 1,500 individuals participating. Great job, everyone! Congratulations to the following winners who will be contacted later this week regarding their prize.

Top department (%): Enrollment Management Shared Services (55% reduction)
Honorable mentions:
  • Office for Information Management
  • Computational Science and Engineering
Top individual (%): Jean Haley, Crop Sciences (nearly 100% reduction)
Honorable mentions:
  • Joshua Gulley, Psychology
  • Ben Chase, Technology Services
Top individuals (GB): Duane Fitch, Illini Union (9.7 GB)
Honorable mentions:
  • Theresa Whittaker, Technology Services
  • Melissa Reedy, School of Molecular & Cellular Biology

Drawing: Darcy Derr, Illinois Abroad

Bonus category:
Top individual (GB) from University Administration: John Cowsert, Administrative Information Technology Services (47 GB reduction)
Honorable mentions:
  • Mark Maziar, Administrative Information Technology Services
  • Brian Schoudel, Administrative Information Technology Services


Dates: February 15 - February 26, 2016
Eligibility: Faculty and staff campus email accounts (no sign-up required)
Footprint: Mailbox size on campus email server
Winners determined by percentage change in mailbox size (individual and department), largest overall decrease (individual), and a prize drawing for all mailboxes that decreased from the initial size by the end of the challenge (individual).
Prizes: Individual - one Amazon TV Fire Stick; Department - luncheon up to $200 value
Questions: Contact RIMS


The Email Footprint Challenge can help you eliminate unnecessary messages, organize your mailbox, reduce search time, locate messages faster, and save space. And, of course, the winners get bragging rights and coveted awards for a truly skinny digital footprint!

Important Dates

Monday, February 15, 2016: Kick-off
Monday, February 22: Progress update
Friday, February 26: End of challenge
Tuesday, March 1: Results announced and winners contacted


Q: I want to participate in the challenge, but how do I avoid deleting any email that may be considered a record, subject to a pending FOIA request or other record holds related to audits or litigation?

A: It is important to understand that participating in the Illinois Email Footprint Challenge does not grant you the authority to delete any records associated with any pending request for records or with directives regarding retention of records. This applies to pending FOIA requests, pending subpoena or other requests related to legal proceedings, and audit and litigation holds.   If such a request or hold is in place, or reasonably anticipated, you must maintain records that would fall within such request or hold.  Records may be disposed of providing all audits have been completed under the supervision of the Auditor General, any pending FOIA requests have been fulfilled under the supervision the Office of University Relations, any subpoena or other discovery request has been processed by the Office of University Counsel, and any previously issued litigation hold has been lifted by the Office of University Counsel and/or the records are not pertinent to pending or anticipated litigation.

Tips & Tricks

Whether you're looking for a long-term strategy or just hoping to get an edge in the competition, try these tried and true tips to manage an unruly Inbox. If you have any suggestions for additional tips, let us know!


  1. Be sure to regularly empty your Deleted Items folder.
  2. Use Outlook to check your folder sizes and focus on the largest ones first. Don't forget about the Sent Items folder and personal folders (PST).
  3. Sort your messages by size to find the largest ones.
  4. Remove unnecessary attachments if you can't get rid of the entire message.
  5. Request approval to dispose of any State Records.


  1. Keep your Inbox clean. Only keep messages in the Inbox that you will refer to within the next day or two. Move reference messages to a subfolder. Flag messages that require follow-up and then move them to a subfolder.
  2. Limit the number of folders. Save time organizing by grouping messages into a handful of folders based on a desired attribute - urgency, length to keep, etc - and use the Search Tools to find specific messages by keyword, sender, subject, date, etc.
  3. Create rules to move lower priority messages such as newsletters out of your Inbox for later review.


  1. Unsubscribe from unnecessary bulk email where possible. Delete messages you don't need immediately.
  2. Rather than sending an attachment, use Box to share the file.
  3. Limit the use of your work account for personal purposes.
  4. Advanced: Enable AutoArchive to set the default to permanently delete old items after 60 months. You can then customize this setting for specific folders if desired.
  5. Advanced: Clean up redundant messages.

2015 Winners

Department: News Bureau (18% reduction)
Individual (%): Lou Miller, Materials Research Lab
Individuals (GB):
  • Chris Skaar, CITES
  • Denise Swenson, UA Employee Relations and HR
  • Debra Kincaid, Provost & VC Academic Affairs