Follow up on the email maestro workshop

Yesterday, 19 learners from all three divisions and the administrative staff turned out to learn how to tame their inboxes and work on an idea to make email more manageable for all of us.

When creating this workshop, I wanted to empasize the big idea that email is just a medium, just like writing letters, television and twitter. The usefulness of any medium is that it should help to connect people, and in the case of email, it doesn’t seem to be working as well as it used to. We shouldn’t live in our inbox; our job isn’t to write, check and respond to email. We are teachers, and our job is to connect with and educate children.

I thought there are three things we can do to better harness email to help us to better do our jobs:

  • We can get better and processing our own email. This means using tips and tricks like keyboard shortcuts to move through messages more quickly, relying on searching rather than wasting time sorting messages into different folders, and setting up parameters about how we will check email.
  • We can get better at how we write email. This means trying to respect others’ time when sending out email, using clear subject lines, writing short paragraphs, and putting questions in bullets.
  • We can share these ideas with others. Our time and attention are finite, and when we open them up to a medium like email, where anyone can grab out attention, we can quickly experience the tragedy of the commons.

Of course, I struggle with all of these things more than just about anyone I know, and would genuinely your advice for how to make email more useful/manageable.

Here’s the handout from the session.

Here’s a link to the best presentation about how you can tame email in order to allow yourself the time and attention you need to do real, creative work. Merlin Mann, tech wizard and all around nice guy, delivered this talk to google in 2007 and it is still highly relevant today.

Here’s are the videos of the sessions: Part 1:

Part 2:


About John Burk

The ramblings of a physics teacher.
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2 Responses to Follow up on the email maestro workshop

  1. John – this probably wasn’t the focus of your workshop (this is more about etiquette & use rather than organization), but here’s my #1 tip for email.

    When composing an email, always add the recipients address to the “To:” field, LAST, i.e. after you have proofed and carefully thought about your message. This means partial messages do not get sent, wrong recipients are minimized and sometimes you save yourself a little embarrassment! Sometimes, when hitting ‘reply’, I even go to the trouble of removing the recipient address and then re-typing it after the body of the message has been composed.

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