As teachers, we are pulled in approximately 57 different directions at any given moment (quite frankly, it's probably more like 57,000). Among all the responsibilities we have, email can be one of the most time consuming and stressful tasks you have (depending on your student audience). Whether a clear inbox is your reality or just a distant dream, it is important to be mindful about how our emails impact us as well as those on the receiving end.
This article from the Wall Street Journal, "The Smartest Ways to Use Email at Work" outlines research into work email and how we can be smarter about how we use it.
Don't have time to read the whole article? The following are some of the most useful/interesting findings:
Responding to Emails
While it is important to be responsive, it is not necessarily best to respond to an email immediately, especially outside school hours. Maybe it works best for you to spend a few hours over the weekend when you have some distraction-free time to catch up on your correspondence. But when you fire off emails over the weekend, think about what that does to the recipient's inbox. Your relief turns into their stress.
Consider joining the unplugyouremail movement and making a conscious effort to only respond during working hours. If that sounds impossible or too stressful, the article suggests drafting emails, but using a delay send feature so your recipient doesn't get slammed at night or on the weekend. To do this, try adding the Boomerang Chrome extension. Among other features, Boomerang allows you to set a date and time in the future to send emails. Doing this helps clear your inbox when it works for you, but doesn't put "pressure on anybody else to respond" outside school hours.
The article also suggests turning off email alerts and checking email at regular intervals instead.
When is the best time to send an email?
If you are sending an important email you really want read, there are certain days and times that work better. What do you know - another use for that delay send feature.
Using ALL CAPS or multiple question marks (or exclamation marks) can make your email sound shouty and aggressive!!! Use caution before including either. Take care as well with your font size, use of bold, and changing the font color or highlighting.
Humor and Lightening the Mood
Depending on the intent of your email, (some) humor can go a long way. Adding emojis or even punctuation smilies can be just the thing to soften an email that might come across a bit too harsh :) Now isn't that better? Be careful here as well; too little formality can send the wrong message too.
I encourage you to read the entire article, perhaps late tonight or this weekend when you have time.
Also, check out the following resources to help manage your inbox:
Boomerang for send delay and scheduling
Add Chrome extension from Web Store (start by opening a new tab):
Create Google tasks or events from emails to get them out of your inbox