Email You-Know-What: What’s the Root Cause?

Jan 23, 2015

It’s brewing. There’s an email issue among us, and I’m going to TAKE.IT.ON. So, what is the real issue? There are lots of theories. Some of it’s behavioral, like FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), some of it’s structural (must you know EVERYTHING that goes on in your organization?!) and some of it’s cultural (are you expected to respond to everything immediately?). There are millions of blogs, apps, hacks and more out there to solve the email problem, but we’ve seen better traction with figuring out the root cause first.

Here are some questions to help guide you to a more satisfying and effective relationship with email:

1. Inbox Set-up: How are you alerted when you have emails? Do they pop to you or do you go get them?

Solution: Turn off all alerts on all of your devices, including that pop up envelope of joy on your Desktop.

2. Frequency of Checking: How frequently do you check your email? Why?

Solution: Set times of day to check your email, when you know you can actually DO something with what’s in there. There’s no sense in checking when you know you can’t act – then you’re stuck with a looming To-Do.

3. Offenders: Who emails you the most often? Why?

Solution: Offer a standing daily check-in instead to review anything this person may have otherwise communicated via email.

4. Clarity: How well are emails written by you and by others?

Solution: If you’re seeing a hodgepodge of dense-text-heavy paragraphs, pull back on the college creative writing. Use bullets and white space instead, and model this for others.

5. Inefficiency: Do you have an insanely elaborate folder structure that requires you take hours to file your messages? Or perhaps you’re the opposite, with no folders or labels at all?

Solution: Set up three big folders: A) Completed B) Active Projects and C) Reference Items. Sub-folder underneath if you must. Delete everything else!

Email itself is not terrible. But often our habits are! And I’m going to showcase some good habits over the next few months. In the meantime, refresh yourself with this post about communication agreements in a school!