E-Mail Management

The always insightful Doug Johnson had a post last week about managing the ever-increasing flood of emails in his educational job and asked commentors for any more tips.

Email is essential to me.  I am in a nearly 1000-student elementary school with no full time library clerk.  I don’t have time to leave the media center very often and I tend to forget things I need to do unless they’re in writing.  So for example if I pass a teacher in the hallway and s/he says they want me to pull a video for their class and stick it in their mail box, I say, “Email that to me or I’ll forget.”  I also have to send out an unfortunate amount of emails to the entire staff.

At the same time, I get more email than is necessary and am always trying to trim the fat.  Love me the “unsubscribe” in promotional emails. We also don’t have the benefit of using Gmail in out district like Mr. Johnson does.  That would sure make things a bit easier.  We have Lotus notes and yes, it tends to get full and slow down a lot.  Sometimes I send an email to the staff and I’ll get one or two bounce back with a notification that their email is full.

In the spirit of “flipping the classroom” I actually made a two minute plus video using Screencast-o-matic showing staff some tips and tricks for dealing with their email.  It’s been watched over 40 times which would be a bit more than half of the classroom teachers, so that’s pretty good.  If anyone else has trouble I can just send them the link.

Other than Lotus Notes specific tips, one big one I gave was to show them how I forward emails from my work email account into my personal Gmail account.  I particularly do this for anything with a big attachment I might need later.  That way I can delete it from my work email and save some room there and it’s easily findable on Gmail.

I’m not an “Inbox Zero” acolyte.  Gmail is essentially bottomless and now that they automatically filter between “Primary,” “Social,” and “Promotions,” I’m pretty happy with how my email looks.  I did set up a filter in Gmail for my work email.  So when I forward something to myself from school, it automatically goes into a folder called “School.”  I don’t see any need to file things other than that since Gmail is searchable.  If someone said, “Do you have the schedule for next week’s Book Fair?”  I’d type “Book Fair” into Gmail and it would pop right up.

Mr. Johnson’s subject headings are great.  Our principal strongly encourages the use of “EOM” which is “End of Message” and is used when you can put the whole of the note in the subject line.  Saves gobs of time when it’s something easy and direct.  She also strongly discourages “personal” items and even has a special section of the weekly e-newsletter called “Classifieds” for people to post things they’re selling, invitations, recipes, lost & found, funny stuff, etc.  That is a big help.

We do have some problems with media specialists sending out too many emails to all the other media specialists. For example one will send out an email to everyone asking for a certain title a teacher of theirs wants to borrow.  I can understand why they do this since they official requesting system is a pain but it’s not very efficient.  It’s much better to look in the catalog, see who has it and email those people directly.  Don’t think I  haven’t mentioned this.  It’s getting better anyway.

I don’t know if anyone out there is old enough to remember the days before regular email but we used to have to check our mailbox in the staff room all the time.  I got into the habit of checking it first thing in the morning, then around lunch, then right before I left for the day.  I tell the teachers that I tend to do much the same with my email.  This is so no one will expect me to always be monitoring my email for their specific problem.  My first year here I’d get a few snippy, “But I emailed you about this” comments and I’d have to remind them that the media center can be an active place and I’m not always sitting at my computer checking email.  Now I’ve pretty much trained them to send me a student with a note if it’s an immediate need.

Another thing I try to do is something else Mr. Johnson mentioned.  Send less email.  Yes, I have to send emails to the whole staff about things like Book Fairs and AR updates and schedules, but I try to do it as little as often and only when necessary.  I also try to keep the messages as short as I can.  Another thing I do is always add a link to a short and fun educational or funny clip or cute animal picture.  Many of these end up in lessons later and I get thanked for them!  I just add them to make the email more painless but now they count on it.

I also try to walk over and talk to people as much as I can.  Especially office staff since they’re not too far away.  I hate sending emails to administrators because I know they probably get four times what I get.  My bookkeeper especially appreciates it.  And I like to take a break from the Media Center every once in a while.

I love email.  I love the immediacy and the convenience and the record keeping aspects of it.  I love not having to check my mailbox as often.

But I also love keeping it under control.