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Clean Up Your Untidy Inbox!

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Meticulous is a word I'd use to describe myself.

Much like my real desk and working space, my virtual spaces were always well organized.

Having mastered a complex labeling system, student work is always easy to find and in predictable places. Resources are always readily available.

When I decided to go paperless in my classroom, the unexpected challenge that arose was my virtual catastrophe of an inbox.

Student work started pouring in from all of my classes, and I just couldn't sort it as quickly as it arrived. In addition to invitations to Google docs, replies to comments and meeting notifications, the steady influx of opportunity and learning often came without proper introduction.

Untitled docs are the bane of my existence.

But an untidy inbox will just not do. As a matter of fact, since I started using a smart phone, I'm much better at staying on top of my mail because I'm a little compulsive about the numbers popping up. I have a bizarre, deep need to resolve the unread emails and tend to pending matters as close to immediately as possible.

This may have something to do with my horrible fear of missing something important and inadvertently sending wrong or bad information to some unbeknownst receiver. 

Here are some tips for managing an unwieldy inbox:

  • Sort or delete spam immediately. This will help keep the numbers down to mail that is essential. Delete duplicate emails or notifications from Google docs first to declutter.
  • Create a label system to organize where the mail goes. The more specific the labels, the better. This way you can always go back to saved emails readily. 
  • Use the search feature when having a difficult time finding emails about specific topics or from a specific person
  • Consider routing emails to folders and reviewing them at your earliest convenience.
  • Have a routine for checking email, so emails can be answered quickly and efficiently in an order of priority
  • Student work should always be attended to in a reasonable amount of time. I try to get to student work or emails within 24 hours of receiving it.
  • Items that can't be sorted into labeled folders immediately can be marked by priority level and or starred for emphasis. Really important emails should be starred for quick reminders that they are urgent.
  • Remember to manage your sorting regularly as priorities change. 
  • Reviewed saved emails regularly deleting older stuff that no longer is important. (Sometimes I find stuff from years ago that may have been important then but no longer is)
  • Less is always more - keep only what you need.

Much like a messy locker or office, a lack of organization can result in a lot of lost time and frustration. Managing work flow through email is essential to effective use of time and productivity. We must model the behaviors we'd like to teach our students, so it is important to maintain a neat inbox.

An organized workspace equates to time better spent and who can't use more time. Planning appropriately always helps with time management and keeping on top of my correspondences guarantees better success.

What do you find most challenging about staying on top of electronic communication? Share your tips for management.

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