Don’t Let E-Mail Overwhelm You!

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February 26, 2015 by Dr. Robbie Barber

It turns out that there is more than one discussion to be had on email.  Originally, I thought the #FCSVanguard discussion (2/19/2015) might revolve around the number of unread messages in your inbox.  But that’s not what people consider the problem to be.  The problem is the sheer overwhelming number of messages in an inbox at all.  If you would like to read through the discussion, check out this storify:

From that discussion, we came up with some simple rules:

  1. Delete extraneous messages;
  2. File “saved” messages in an appropriate folder;
  3. Create To Do list (and make it folder that you move things into);
  4. Create rules to file messages to a folder automatically; and
  5. NEVER .

There is some research that says you should only check mail two or three times a day.  I guess if I check every 10 minutes, I’m displaying scary addiction behavior, but the reality is that I carry a computer in a pocket (smartphone) and it’s easy to do.  Still, I think the average teacher needs some additional rules.  One is that a teacher SHOULD check their email at least two or three times a day.  Yes, we’re busy people, but making sure there is not a hanging message waiting on your attendance or response is important.  Check your email, please.

Going back to the idea that unread messages DO matter, I suggest that cleaning the mailbox is a great start. DO NOT READ EVERY MESSAGE!!  That’s harder to do than you think and will take practice.  But do it because once it’s a habit, you will be so much better served in this information age.  Check the sender and the subject line and decide if it is worth opening.  There are so many messages sent to large groups that do not concern you.
Make it simple and hit the key.

Never receive personal ads (Walgreens, CVS, various stores) to your work email.  If you do currently, unsubscribe.  Open one message, scroll to the bottom and click on “unsubscribe”.  If you want those ads, sign up with your personal email.  Just do it.   When cleaning your email inbox up, don’t try to individually delete 1,000 ads.  To delete the store ads, do a search in email for a particular store like “Walgreens”.  Then select all and delete.  Done.  (Depending on your email package, be sure to empty your trash can regularly.  You will free up tons of space.)

I suggest that my teachers create a mailbox rule that shunts everything the principal sends to a folder titled “A – Principal”.  This folder will appear alphabetically directly under the Inbox and teachers can train themselves to always look there first for a new message.  That way they’ll get the principal’s messages FIRST and not wade through 30-40 messages first thing in the morning.  Know what is important and treat it as such.

End the day with NO UNREAD MESSAGES.  Either delete or file or read each message.  Psychologically, it’s got to feel less overwhelming and scary to show no unread messages in your inbox.  And, once you’re on top of it, you’ll stay on top of it.  After all, with the right rules in place, and the permission to delete, you can control your email, not the other way around.

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