College & Workforce Readiness Opinion

Let’s Free Our Schools From Inbox Overload

By Patrick Larkin — August 08, 2015 1 min read
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One of my least favorite things, in both my professional life and my personal life, is deal with Emails. Therefore, I am open to anything that will help me avoid spending more than a small amount of time each day writing and/or responding to Email. Because of my propensity to avoid Email, I always have my antenna up for tips and tricks that will help me in this area. With this in mind, I was thrilled to come across the Email Charter this week, a document which gives some concrete solutions to help all of us deal with this unnecessary intrusion.

The Email Charter clearly states both the problem and the solution as follows:

The Problem

The relentless growth of in-box overload is being driven by a surprising fact: The average time taken to respond to an Email is greater, in aggregate, than the time it took to create.

The Solution

...Email overload is something we are inadvertently doing to each other. You can't solve this problem acting alone. You will end up simply ignoring, delaying, or rushing responses to many incoming messages, and risk annoying people or missing something great. That prospect is stressful...But if we can mutually change the ground rules, maybe we can make that stress go away."

The Email Charter, which emanated from a blog post by TED curator Chris Anderson four years ago, was something that was crowd-sourced and revised into a list of 10 things (shown in the graphic below from emailcharter.org) that we can all do to “reverse this spiral.”

In looking at the list, I have three quick takeaways for school leaders as we head into a new school year and try to support the people within our organization by freeing them up from in-box overload.

  1. Deliver your message verbally whenever possible - If you are in a small school or district deliver individual messages in person instead of adding another e-mail to someone’s inbox. This also gets you out of the office and allows you to be more visible and potentially interact with even more colleagues. In addition, if the message is something that deals with an emotional or hot-button topic then it is better to have a conversation and not leave open the possibility that the tone of an e-mail will be misread.

  2. Open-ended emails should be retired - If you are looking for group input on a decision, an agenda, or a document then put out a collaborative document for people to work on together (i.e. a Google doc). It will save everyone time and show more transparency in the process.

  3. Take the angry e-mail out of your repertoire - What is gained by a scathing e-mail? Do you really feel better after ? How long until you start thinking that you should find a way to unsend that nastygram? Remember, you don’t have to unsend 100-percent of the angry Emails that you never send.

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