Wednesday, 31 August 2016

The endless battle against email

At Nexus, we have a problem. That problem is email. Last week, our staff conspired to send upwards of 10000 emails. Yes. 10000 emails sent in one week. But, the headline figure of this, is the emails received

We use group emails such as all_teacher and secondary_teacher. The total for this was 94626 emails. Yes, you read that right.

Ninety four thousand six hundred and twenty six emails. In a week.

Understandably, many of those emails may have been auto-generated by apps such as Google Docs and Google Classroom invites, but the rest were generated by people

Now, before we get apoplectic with rage about the senders of these mails, bear in mind that we are all responsible for sending wasteful emails at times. Last week, we had emails about social events, missing equipment, new learners, meetings, reminders about meetings, clarification of reminders about meetings, surveys, emails about emails and emails about juggling scarves.

Who lost the scarves? And what is a juggling scarf anyway?

Many websites suggest that the average worker now spends upwards of 30 minutes a day simply reading emails. This does not account for the time we spend carefully writing them so that people get our message. However, if this article is anything to go by, our audience may only be reading 28% of the words we send to them. 

In fact, you've probably stopped reading already.

There are lots of things we find annoying about emails, from the endless discussion about a meeting that we could have simply scheduled on a calendar, to the frustrating use of reply_all. 

Conversely, there are plenty of times when we have meetings that could have been delivered by email. 

So, what can we do to try to address this?

We all need to think carefully about our use of email and the impact it is having. This is a list of things we can all try to do to reduce the daily avalanche.
  1. Do not send emails when you are teaching. Chances are other people will be too, and you should be teaching.
  2. Think before sending any email. A carefully crafted email can take minutes to construct, but evidence suggests that people very rarely read the full detail - it is often frustrating when colleagues misconstrue what we think is a clear message.
    Can you share this information in another way?
  3. Meet face to face. Humans are social creatures; talking to people is generally a pleasant experience and your message will be clearly delivered. On top of that, sitting too much is bad for you.
  4. Do not expect a reply to your email in less than 24 hours if on a weekday*
  5. If you send an email in the evening, do not expect a reply until the working day begins*
  6. If you send an email at the weekend, do not expect a reply until the working week begins*
  7. Email should not be used for discussion or decision making. It is for information only. If you are in a discussion that you would rather not be in, watch this 50 second video
  8. Try to never, ever use reply_all.
  9. Science says that those pop-ups on your screen and vibrating phone messages are a major distraction. Turn them off.
  10. For team discussions and chat, why not try Slack? It's a web-based interface for teams to communicate and chat about topics and projects to keep everyone in the loop.
* Email is not for emergencies. If you really need someone to do something, try a phone call.