Last week I wrote about meaningfully integrating technology into your course and one of the items I hyperlinked to was Communicating with Students: A Suggestion about Email. In this blog post, the author uses Skype instead of email to answer student questions – not because it’s the best method (as you’ll see if you read the comments) but because it’s the method that works best for the author. Personally, using Skype and being logged in to Skype for office hours would be my own version of purgatory, but I would definitely consider something like Twitter direct messages instead. Although I like having a readily printable record of emails if I need them and much prefer email over phone calls, handling email itself is my own personal technology challenge.
I’ve heard about the concept of inbox zero, and while I don’t necessarily subscribe to the theory that all inboxes should have zero messages, I do find I feel better when there are fewer emails in my inbox. I’ve created folders to move emails from the inbox to the appropriate folders, but I still struggle with following up on important emails. I’ve tried flagging messages for follow up, but it’s often difficult to identify when I can follow up (or when I will want to). In my previous position, I didn’t receive as many emails, so I marked the ones that required actions as unread until they were completed. This is no longer an option due to the high volume of email I receive (and also because my email is synced with my phone and the red circle with the number of unread messages would haunt me forever).
In an effort to be self-sufficient and to solve my own problems, I listened to a podcast over Christmas break in which a group of tech experts discussed email and how they managed it for about an hour. They described the apps and programs they’ve tried and what worked and what didn’t. Essentially, they advocated only handling the email once – a system that I’ve read about for snail mail as well. If something came in, they took action, filed it or deleted it. Sometimes the taking action part was sending it to Evernote or some other archival system. While it all sounded wonderful to me, it also sounded incredibly “techie” and overly complicated; I want something easier. When I get an email with a newsletter attached, what can I do with it so that I remember to read it later (at some undetermined point in the future) without either losing it or it clogging up my flagged tasks list? Also, what I really want is a setting that allows me to choose when to delete the message. When I send a meeting invite and the invitees reply to accept or decline, I like to keep these until after the meeting date. How cool would it be to have these messages automatically disappear after the meeting has ended?
Those are just a few of my issues involving email. While I greatly appreciate the invention and the elimination of having to talk to people in person, I wish that I had a better handle on how to effectively manage it a little better. In the comments below, feel free to share your own personal tech challenges. What are your strategies?