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E-mail suppression not management

As our district migrates our e-mail system from two (Outlook and Gmail) e-mail systems to one (Gmail), I've been hearing some rumbling about the burden e-mail places on already busy people. No, moving to Gmail does not increase in the amount of e-mail received. But now that attention has been brought to bear on this popular and important means of communication, staff members have cause to notice just how damn much e-mail does get sent!

I too often feel overwhelmed by the amount of e-mail I receive each day. And I've done a little informal research on minimizing the time suck e-mail becomes. 

While much of the "zero-inbox" crowd focuses on how you treat incoming e-mail (prioritized, file, sort, respond instantly, read at set times, etc.), I believe that the focus need to change from "managing the deluge" to "slowing the deluge." And that, I'm afraid. means personal changes and changes in organizational culture.

Here are some ideas, none original:

1. To get less mail, send less mail. Every time I send an e-mail, I am guessing my rate is about 2.5 e-mails in return - with perhaps 50% actually related to the topic at hand. Don't say you weren't warned. 

I believe there should be a $5 charge each time a person uses "reply to all." Reply to all, you just may hear from all.

2. Use the dang phone. E-mail is a poor communications medium for anything nuanced, difficult to comprehend, or possibly incriminating. Most of us have a phone on our desk or in our pockets. (An amazing device that converts voice to sound and sounds back into voice for the receiver!) You're not a Luddite if you use it for voice calls now and then. I will respond to a conversation once or twice and then it's telephone time for me.

3. Watch the cc: use. Not everyone understands that cc: means those in the cc line are not expected to respond to the e-mail. CC means that this was informational only. Oh, please don't cc your supervisor until you actually need his/her help solving a problem. You don't need CYA all the time. (Just keep a copy of your sent mail.) 

4. Use filters - a lot. You send me some stupid advert (mass e-mailing) that the spam filter didn't catch, I'll take 30 seconds and build a filter of your domain name ( and e-mail from your domain will never darken my door again. I bet I have 550+ domains in my filter that go directly from the cloud to my trash without every having to pass GO or collect 200 seconds of my attention.

5. Stop doing work e-mail outside of work hours. You don't like your boss harassing you after 5 or on the weekends? Well, don't harass the poor souls you manage or work with off hours either. See: 8-5 e-mail plan.

6. Let the subject heading do the work. Here are a few ideas from the 99u website:

  • FYI – For Your Information. It replies that no reply is needed, and is usually a short message. Example: “FYI Free Donuts in the Kitchen”.
  • URGENT - Used for when something is really urgent. Don’t use it if something is not urgent. And if something is truly, truly urgent, it’s best to follow up with a call or IM as well. Example: “URGENT: Final reminder to file quarterly team reports”
  • EOM – End of Message. This is usually used when the entire email is in the subject line. Example: Elevator is broken today, please use stairs EOM
  • NRN – No Reply Needed. Indicates that the receiver doesn’t need to reply. There is likely a body to the message but no response is needed. Example: “Jennifer wants you to call her back NRN”
  • NFA – No Further Action. Same as combination of FYI and NRN. For your notification only, no action or reply needed. Example: “Mr. Tanaka will be in at 11am not 10am NFA”

I also think we need to remember that e-mail is not an add-on to our jobs, but an intregal part to our jobs. Like meetings and reports, we may not like them or feel they are always productive, but e-mails are just plain fact of life in doing education.

Any ways you've found not to manage, but control your e-mail? 

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Scammers and the cost of ignorance

E-mails like this are making the rounds again (or maybe these come out all the time and I just happen to notice this one): 


I also received an e-mail similar to this but supposedly from Chase Bank, where I've never had an account.

These must work with percent of those who receive them, despite the bright red warning label place on the message by Google.  The naive, the less-than-brilliant, the ignorant, the technologically fearful, the pathologically trustful all might send in the requested data asked for in e-mails like this.  I don't know specifically who would do this, but I'd bet dollars to donuts, somebody in your district with a Gmail account will comply to this spammer's request.

It was reported last month that Russian hackers have posted something like 5 million Gmail usernames and passwords on the Internet. Google denies any culpability and says only 2% are valid. Might the source of these passwords be scams like the one above? No clue.

Here's the deal: we have to teach adults in our schools as well as kids how to be safe online. This includes everyone who has a school e-mail address including cooks, custodians, educational assistants, paras, clerical staff, and administrators. PD in schools can't just be for the classroom teacher.


BFTP: All administrators can learn

In response to my post "13 Point Library Checklist for School Principals*," an anonymous commenter left a rather sad observation:

 If given the article, would my principal even understand what he'd read?



Personally, I've found that given enough time and enough effort, all administrators can learn. But it is up to the building librarians to be the instructor. Nobody else can or will do it for us.

One of my earliest published articles, "Using Planning and Reporting to Build Library Support," appeared in the Book Report (now LMC) magazine way, way back when the earth was still cooling - 1992. Based on my own efforts as a high school librarian at the time, the second part of the article talks about the necessity for an ongoing, long-term, formal communication plan aimed in large part directly at the building principal. Nothing has changed except the number and quality of tools with which we can communicate. Really.

As a profession we too often bemoan the fact that principal training programs, administrative conferences, and professional journals either ignore or malign librarians. Leading me to believe that too many of us have developed a "victim" mentality.

Here's my bold prediction: Any educator who thinks of him/herself as victim in a school will wind up as one.

Somehow your principal managed to scrape together enough brains to get a college degree (probably a couple), fool somebody in an interview, and maybe even win the approval of others in your building and community. These folks are teachable. Take advantage of it.

*This checklist was updated in 2012

Original post 10/29/2009