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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Email: Managing Efficiency with Etiquette

Alan Cafferkey, Director of Faculty Technology Services

"Too Many Emails" by Ilana Bercovitz from CloudShare Community

Below is an excerpt from Alan's recent Learn IT presentation

Educators and students are highly dependent on email for communication, partly because it's an easy and reliable way to share information and files. But sometimes email feels more like a hindrance than a help. Perhaps that feeling arises because email is often used when other tools might be more suitable. Below are some suggestions for managing email with diplomacy and efficiency.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Communication
When you send an email, do you expect an instant reply? Do you feel like you must respond to your inbox emails immediately? If the answer is yes, then your inbox is a To Do list that someone else made for you. Emails are generally an asynchronous form of communication and should not be viewed as synchronous. 

If you need an immediate response, consider alternatives. Maybe you're better off using a text message, Gmail chat (IM), a phone call, or an actual visit to someone's office. You might discover that an in-person visit is the best way to get an immediate response to your questions. 

To Do Lists
Do you keep emails in your inbox to remind yourself to do what's mentioned in those emails? That method can clutter your inbox. An alternative is to use to do list software, such as Simple Task. I unclutter my inbox by letting my correspondents know I'll get back to them, and then I add a reminder about it on my to do list in the app. The email can be filed away--it's gone, but not forgotten.

File Storage
Is your inbox also your storage cloud? Stop! Use a "real" cloud. Google Drive and Fordham's MyFile make it easy to store, organize, and retrieve files when you need to email them again. Dropbox is another cloud storage system that's free and easy to use.

Collaborating with Multiple Authors
My pet peeve: Editing with one or more people a document that's sent around via email. The end result is a long email with multiple revisions. Sometimes people edit the doc without realizing others are also editing it at the same time, and then emails get crossed with new versions. Instead, set up a Google Doc and share it with your coeditors. The document's editing history is preserved and the number of emails in your inbox will be reduced.

Finding a Meeting Time
“Is everyone free at 11am on Tuesday?” Don’t send that. Emails are terrible for scheduling. Use Google Calendar if the people you're scheduling have it enabled. Or, send out a poll, using Google Survey or a Doodle poll. 

Status Reports
Email can be used as an ongoing record to keep your colleagues in the loop about events and tasks. But there are other tools, such as a blog or a wiki, which are designed for such updates. To create a blog, try Google Sites, Blogger, or Wordpress. Wikispaces works well for a wiki. 

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