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Now that email is back. . .

When I ask faculty about what resources they most need, the two most common responses are time and money. While I don’t have extra funds and I can’t offer you a time-turner, I can share some best-of-the-web suggestions for taming the least satisfying time-consumer in our lives: email.
And since cybergeddon imposed an email hiatus on us, this is a good time to establish good email hygiene–before your inbox becomes unmanageable again.

1. Set a Schedule

Schedule a time each day to manage your email and honor your schedule. Think of your email schedule like office hours: you set a block of time once or twice a day to respond to your email and let people know. Resist the urge to constantly check email outside of that timeframe. You can even post your email availability in your signature:

Shannon L. Reed, Ph.D. (pronouns: Any, said with respect)
Professor and Director, Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning
Office of the Provost
(303) 964-XXXX | |
I respond to emails every weekday 9:00-10:00 AM and 4:00-5:00PM

2. Open it Once

If you don’t have time to respond to your email, don’t open it. Instead, wait until you have time, and then respond, delete, or save.

Respond: If you can, keep your emails brief. If the email requires a long answer, it is probably better to pick up the phone (Hey! they work now!) or schedule a meeting.

Delete: This is hard, but it can be done. If you really do not need to respond, and if you really are not going to take action, just delete the message.

Save: Outlook allows you to save email messages as appointments, files, tasks, and it also allows you to flag messages for follow-up.

3. Use Outlook Efficiently

There are some useful shortcuts that can make managing email faster and easier. In Outlook you can drag and drop messages into your calendar, attachments into your email message, and one email into another.

Check out 6 Best Outlook Hacks You Need to Know in 2019 and
Top 10 Microsoft Tips to Maximize Efficiency.

4. Use the 5 Sentence Rule

Make a policy that all of your emails will be 5 sentences or less. The site offers a tagline to add to your emails.

5. Be an Email Ninja

These guidelines for being an email ninja can also help you tame your inbox and reclaim your time.

A last comment on emailing students

Of course it can be much harder to follow this advice when emailing students. It might be easy to delete an email from your department chair or from your friendly, neighborhood CETL Director, but it is harder to keep a schedule and to be brief when students email us in a panic or with lengthy questions about assignments or grades. In those cases, if you need to craft a long email, consider whether it might be better for them and more efficient for you to set up a meeting to talk, in person if possible, or by zoom or phone if not.

Ultimately, managing email can be a form of mindful self care. Set boundaries, give yourself permission to take breaks and to delete messages, and honor your commitments to your own time.


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