I once considered email to be a convenient and efficient mode of communication. Today, hundreds of messages come into my inbox on a weekly basis and as a result it becomes difficult to manage and communicate properly.
Over the years I’ve tried a bunch of things to become more efficient. Some have worked and some have not. Here’s a few suggestions:
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
- Folders for everything – I once tried to create a bunch of folders to move messages to once I read and was done with them. I found myself always creating folders and forgetting what folders were created or which messages went in what folder. It was too complex of a system.
- Responding to email I was cc’d on. Early on, I felt every email required a response. Business etiquette will tell you that being cc’d is an FYI. I now read and follow up with the appropriate person, when necessary.
WHAT DID WORK
- Creating one general file folder – I created 1 main folder to move read messages to once done. I call mine “All Read Email”. I also have a half dozen other folders for specific large scale items that have a lot of emails coming in on the topic and I want to be able to quickly find those emails. Those include “Inclement Weather” and “Referendum” folders. I go to those often or I may need them quickly
- Filter your responses – We receive many emails with lists of people included. Resist the reply to all when you only need to respond to one or a few people on the list. I’ve found that once you reply to all, you get a waterfall of reply to all comments and they are often one word response… like, “Yes”, “Agree”, “Count me in”, “Got it”.
- Use the tags feature on your Gmail – This feature is awesome and a great organization tool. I have created tags for my email so I know what to do with the email after I’ve read it. Three of the tags I use consistently are “Follow-up” which tells me I need to stay on top of this issue, “Social Media” which tells me that the content is something we may want to post on our district’s social media feeds, and “Updates” which means I need to provide the information to a group of people (i.e. Board of Education members, principals, supervisors, faculty).
How to create folders and labels in Gmail are explained in Hack 3 of Hacking Google for Educators.
By finding features on email and procedures that work for you, your inbox can become an efficient communication tool and not a burden. Good luck! Feel free to share your ideas in the comments section.