Goodness, gracious! Email can both help us stay in control--and give us the sense that we are out of control. To help get some control over your email, put one or all of the following ideas into place.
1. Open your email only a specified number of times each day (vs. having it on constantly). Even if you open it once an hour, that's an improvement over having it on 100% of the time.
2. Only open your email if you have time to process/deal with what is there. What so often happens with educators is that you have a spare moment between classes and then you dash in to see what's in your inbox. You don't really have time to deal with any of the emails that are in there, but just seeing them gives you a sense of dread and heaviness--because you know you have all those to handle when you finally do sit down to try to power through them. It's generally not a feeling of lightness.
3. Set up and use all the "rules" you possibly can to sift and sort your email. If you don't know how to do this with your program (Outlook, Eudora, Groupwise, or some other), then ask someone who does. Each little tip you can use makes a difference. Think about having one tip or technique for using email "rules" shared at each faculty meeting.
4. Use a clear, pertinent, succinct subject line (and this may be the whole message). For example: "IEP meeting Tuesday afternoon is canceled." If this is indeed the entire message, then put EOM which means End of Message to let the reader know they don't even have to open the email.
5. Use agreed-upon abbreviations to indicate the end of an email exchange. Two widely used and recognized examples are NNTR (No Need to Respond) or NRN (No Response Necessary). Use that with some of the emails that you are sending out if it's the truth. And if you see these on someone else's email, then resist the temptation to reply anyway.
6. Stop email ping-pong (also known as "boomerang email"). This is what happens when an email is sent to request a parent's phone number for example. The number is sent back. Then the receiver thanks the phone number sender who then writes back saying, "no problem...and you always help me." Then that has to be acknowledged and it just goes on and on. Stop it.
7. Have a "throwaway" email address (from hotmail or yahoo, for example). There are times you may want to have an email address that you use just so you can get into a specific website. You don't really want to get email sent to that address, you just have to supply an email or you can't shop for prices on the site (or whatever it is that you're looking for). If all of a sudden you're getting a bunch of weird email to that address, you can just abandon it and get another one.
8. Avoid using your school email address outside of the school district. School districts have frustratingly stringent filters (that still allow some interesting things through, as you've probably seen). You need to have a personal email address that you check daily that actually is controlled by you (vs. the district). That way, you can decide what is and isn't spam.
9. Keep updated virus software. Having your computer shut down due to a virus causes untold chaos and headache for you and those around you. Be aware that some school districts are vigilant about this and others...not so much. If you want to make sure that your life at school is not disrupted by losing everything on your hard drive, take it upon yourself to know what virus software is on your computer--and that it's up-to-date.
10. Ask people not to send you unnecessary "stuff"-cartoons, jokes, chain letters, etc. Be kind but firm in your request. You don't have time for that with the myriad tasks and responsibilities you already have. Plus, remember that ANYTHING that is sent through your school district's server is something that can read by others. There are a few jokes and cartoons, etc. that I've seen come through school district servers that are not exactly "professional" shall we say?
11. Clear out your email inbox daily. (WHEW! I know this one makes most people fall out of their chairs when I say this in a workshop. I have other articles on this but for now, I just wanted to put it out there for you). That's really the goal--that each day you process everything that is in your inbox so that each morning when you arrive, there is nothing hanging over you from previous days.
Just start with #1--if you do that one and don't try any of the others, it will be helpful. Believe me. I'm hoping however, that you continue working through all 11 of the ideas, and that you subscribe to one of my weekly reminders mentioned below--for additional support in being your most productive (and in control) self.
Educators have the most influential positions in our society--and need every bit of support that can be mustered. Two resources that will help increase educators' sense of peaceful, predictable productivity are Meggin's weekly emails.
(c) 2008 by Meggin McIntosh, Ph.D., "The Ph.D. of Productivity"(tm). Through her company, Emphasis on Excellence, Inc., Meggin McIntosh changes what people know, feel, dream, and do. Sound interesting? It is!