Email can be a powerful productivity tool in education, or it can be a quagmire of inefficiency and hostility. Here are some guidelines from Achievement First
to help make email an asset for K12 employees.
- All staff check email and reply to requests at least once every 24 hours.
- We avoid “discussions” over email. If something could cause great difference of opinion, is a big change, is complex, or requires significant rationale to understand, let’s NOT put it in an email. Email “tone” is easily misunderstood, so stick to neutral subjects/reminders/FYIs when using it.
- In the subject line, put the topic in detail, and the “reply requested” date in brackets.
- Sample: <reply requested by 9/5 at noon> Reading A-Z Renewal Decision
- OR <FYI only; no action needed>
- OR <30 second reply requested by 5/5 COB>
- Salutations clearly address ONE person who you would like the answer from and an explicit cc: to others, so it is clear who answers, e.g., Hi Michelle (FYI Tina).
- Close your emails with your name. Taking a moment to sign your name gives one last second to confirm that the email represents your thoughts and tone exactly, reads correctly, and is ready to be sent.
- If an email is to multiple people, and one of the addressees has the answer, rather than replying “all” on the answer or conversation, reply all to say “On it!” and then reply privately to the person with the question.
- Put questions in bold so that you get all your questions answered and don’t have to play email tag.
- Sample: Do you want to meet at 2 or 3 on Thursday?
- Ensure questions are not buried in paragraphs. Use bullets for all questions.
- Pose solutions to issues, rather than end emails with blanket statements like “Reactions?”
- Highlight action steps that the recipient needs to take OR list them at the end of the email.
- Sample: Let Ami or Tina know if you want help with F&P testing by 8/12/2010 at 5pm. OR
- Sample:Action steps:Let Ami or Tina know if you want help with F&P testing by 8/12/2010 at 5pm.
Habits of a Productive Emailer
- If you find yourself emailing the same person more than 2 times per day, consider setting up a 10 min meeting you can always cancel.
- As a sender: Use task or meeting requests for anything dated – this way, recipients don’t have to worry about remembering a date in an email.
- As a recipient: Drag the email into your calendar for a few days before the due date – an inbox is not a to-do list.
- Don’t use email for controversial things unless you have to – use it for easy wins and logistics, and use conversations for things that require more back and forth OR that could be solved in a 5 minute discussion rather than a 5-email exchange.
- Hit the “work offline” button when you need to work on a project using your email or calendar but don’t want to see/hear new emails popping up!
- Set up a time once a day to reply to all emails. At the end of the day, you should always be able to see the bottom of your inbox.
The Bottom Line
Emails are an essential part of our lives, and replying by the designated deadline (or within 24 hours) helps work together for our students. Carve out the space you need to make this happen starting today, and reach out to the Tech Department if it is tough.