Just like most things in our classroom, we need a system to improve our email productivity. I spend way too much time in my email and that’s going to change with these tips.
Limit Your Time Checking Emails
My first email productivity tip is to limit your time checking emails. Of course, you’ll want to check with your district or admin about their expectations for responding to emails. My school requires me to check email daily and provides me 24 hours to respond to messages from parents.
Once you know when you have to respond, create a schedule of when to check your emails. I tend to leave my email tab open and check my email throughout the day. This is not an effective use of my time.
Instead, let’s try the Pomodoro Technique. The Pomodoro Technique is fairly simple. First we’ll choose how long we want to work on our email for each session. Because our goal is to limit our time, I will give myself 3 minutes for each of the 4 sessions. A true Pomodoro method would be for all sessions back-to-back with a short break in between. I’m modifying it a bit to fit the teaching world.
Set a timer for 3 minutes.
Read and respond to necessary emails.
Stop when the timer goes off.
Wait for your next scheduled time.
Repeat steps 1-3.
Continue with 3 minute rounds throughout your day until you complete the fourth and final round.
The goal of this technique is to work on building the habit of checking and responding to our emails quickly. When we know we have limited time, we get better at finishing the task in the amount of time we have.
Create Email Templates
My next email productivity tip is to create email templates for your frequent responses. If you use Gmail, you can create email templates by going to settings > advanced > templates. You can also create specialized keyboard shortcuts.
If you don’t feel very techy you can also create a template in a document and cut and paste it when needed. Some templates you might consider:
Field trip notification
State testing dates
Parent Teacher Conferences
Thank you for your concern
Weekly newsletter email
Productivity Tip: Name your template the same as your subject line and it should automatically fill it in when you select the template.
Create Labels or Folders
A great way to stay on top of all your emails is to create labels or folders. If you are a Gmail user, then you will go to settings > labels > create new label. Then you will simply create some categories for your inbox. Once you have your labels (or folders if using a different email system), then you can add the label.
To add a label to a specific email, have the email open and click the label icon at the top of the email. Search for the correct label in the menu that appears. You’ll notice that the email is now tagged with the label within the subject line.
You can also create labels and then click on the folder with an arrow picture that appears inside the email at the top when it’s opened. From this folder you can move the email to that label. The email is now removed from your inbox but you can access it by clicking on the label name. I like to do this with emails from my principal and my grade level so I can find them faster if I need to. This article is short but has great visuals on creating labels in Gmail.
Create an Email Signature
This next tip will give your email a nice professional touch but also help passively tell parents about your working hours. I like to have my school hours and a notice about responding within 24 hours added to my email signature.
If you have Canva you can create an amazing looking email signature - for free! Educators get a free Canva account and it has a ton of resources for creating fliers and newsletters in minutes.
Sort Your Emails
This last productivity email tip is one I just learned. Gmail allows you to sort your emails so the unread emails are filtered to show in the first half of your email. The read emails will shift to the bottom.
Having your unread emails at the top makes sure you won’t miss an important email. If your inbox is anything like mine, I pick and choose what to read throughout the day or week and it starts getting messy fast.
To create these sections you will follow these steps in your Gmail account. Access Settings > Inbox > Inbox type dropdown > Unread first.
I can’t wait to give this a try this school year. It only took a few seconds to set it up.
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