Our lives are so busy. Teachers are working to a deadline every hour of every working day. Keeping on top of emails is important, but I find that I only have time to read and write emails a few times a day – in the morning, in between lessons, and in the afternoon.
I keep my email inbox empty. Every time I open the inbox, I open each message and read it. A lot of messages just need to be read and filed away. I decide if anything in the message needs further attention. If a message has action that I can do in under two minutes, I try to do it immediately. (That’s a Getting Things Done [GTD] mantra.)
I have three main labels for things that require further action: @reply, @review, and @to-do. I use @ signs in front of these labels because it ensures they always stay at the top of the labels list.
I tag @reply messages and make sure to reply to them before I go home that day. Our school has a policy that we must reply to parents within 24 hours.
The @review label is for information that I know I need to spend some time digesting but I can’t do it in under two minutes. Things like an article I want to read or a link to a blog post. I use the @review items for those times when I have a few odd moments waiting for something or at the end of the day in my reading and thinking moods.
The @to-do label goes on things I have to get done. I go through the messages every morning and afternoon and try to attack the biggest thing that I have time for each time. Or if I’m just between lessons or meetings I try to attack three little things. Usually I keep the list manageable so there is no need for excessive prioritizing. When the list gets too long, I dedicate some evening or weekend time – but this is rare.
After all the label tagging, I archive everything in the inbox. An empty inbox keeps my stress down. And knowing that I have seen all my “open loops” and categorized them allows me to focus on jobs at hand instead of worrying about what else I will need to do later.
What is your email workflow?