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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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Reader Comments (4)

When sending large group emails, such as to all staff, I usually use BCC to prevent others from using the Reply All, and I use the salutation to indicate to whom I've sent the email. I too wish I could charge people for using Rely All - I can't believe Gmail has an option to make it the default!

As an introvert, I avoid the phone like the plague (or perhaps Ebola, to modernize the phrase), however, I will often go reply to people in person. Instant messaging is also an effective middle ground between email and phone.

November 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCaitlin Cahill

Hi Caitlin,

Appreciate the tips. I, too, find the in person visit absolutely essential in some situations. (Mending bridges?)


November 2, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Hey, Doug. I kept meaning to respond to this and finally wrote my thoughts up as a post of my own. (


November 3, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJim Randolph

Thanks, Jim. Good ideas there. Happy to have you back in my feed reader!


November 3, 2014 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

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