7 Email Management Strategies Perfect for Teachers
Managing email is one of the biggest challenges facing today’s teachers.
There’s no limit to how much email you can get, there’s no timeframe for when you get it, and it always feels like you have to reply right away.
When you already have a full course load with hundreds of students to teach, lessons to plan, and work to grade — how can you possibly take care of your email as well?
Fortunately, some of the most intrepid minds in the professional world (including education) have created solutions for busy people like you.
Seven of these strategies stand out against the rest as the best email management techniques for educators:
- Daily routine email
- The four D’s
- Five folders
- Inbox zero
- Email templates
- Two-minute rule
You can use several of these strategies together to create your own email management technique.
You can also just use one and see how that works for you.
Regardless, if you’re at your wit’s end trying to keep up with your email every day, these seven strategies can help!
Video: Email Management Strategies to Keep You Sane
1. Daily Routine Email
Daily routine email is a strategy that’s mainly used by high-performing private sector executives.
This strategy is predicated on the idea that email is a fact of daily life. You’ll have to deal with it just like you’ll have to deal with traffic, backtalk, and anything else life throws at you.
So why not treat email that way?
With daily routine email, you check your email at regular times throughout the day to prevent feeling overloaded or distracted.
One example of this may be waking up at 5:30, eating breakfast at 6:00, and checking email at 6:30.
It doesn’t have to be at those intervals — but it’s helpful to block out an hour or two each day just dedicated to emails.
Having one hour in the morning and another hour in the evening tends to work well for most people.
This makes your colleagues happy because you never go longer than a day without answering email.
It makes you (and your loved ones) happy as well since you don’t have to constantly check your email.
That’s probably why so many teachers choose to start with this email strategy.
You probably already have a strict morning routine as it is — it’s hard to be a teacher without one.
If you can shoehorn a block of time for email while you’re having your first cup of coffee, it might just make your life easier!
2. The Four D’s
The Four D’s refer to four actions you can take with any email to organize and simplify your life.
The Four D’s are:
- Delete: If an email doesn’t have any significance for you, delete
- Do: If you need to execute on a task because of an email, do
- Defer: If you have to execute on a task in the future, defer it until appropriate
- Delegate: If someone else is the best person to execute on an email, delegate it to them
Let’s be honest: You could probably delete 80% of the emails you get and everything would be fine.
That’s because people talk through email today like they talked face-to-face 50 years ago.
Email isn’t Facebook. Email isn’t chitchat.
If you want to keep your inbox clean, delete what you know you doesn’t need your input.
You can also choose to do what an email asks, which probably entails about 15% of the email you get.
These may be requests from an administrator, it could be a colleague asking for help, or it may even be a parent asking if there’s a way for their student to succeed in your class.
These kinds of emails can easily get bogged down in back-and-forth discussion. The Four D’s recommend that if you have to do something to end an email conversation, just do it and move onto the next task!
Third, you can also defer on an email.
If you get an email asking you to do something at the end of the school year and it’s only October, you can probably tuck that email away for a while.
That’s not to say it’s unimportant — the timeframe just doesn’t line up right now.
Finally, you have delegate. Delegation means you pass the buck to a colleague, administrator, or someone else.
Teachers across the country have issues with delegation because it feels wrong.
Teachers are helpful, curious, and caring people after all — people like that don’t enjoy causing trouble to others.
But when you’re not the right person for the job, you don’t have much choice.
Delegate the email to someone who has the time, skill, or passion for what’s being asked!
3. Five Folders
The Five Folders strategy says that you really only need five email folders in your email client.
(Note: This doesn’t include Trash or Spam.)
These five folders are:
- Inbox: Your email catchall
- Today: Emails that pertain to the current day
- This Week: Emails that pertain to the current week
- This Month / Quarter: Emails that pertain to this month or marking period
- FYI: Emails for nice-to-know information
The Inbox is the default folder that comes with all email clients. Keep it — you’re going to need it!
The Today folder refers to any emails you’ve received that have to be answered or completed by the end of the day.
Likewise, the This Week folder refers to emails that need answers within the week.
This Month / Quarter folders require you to answer to those emails before the end of the month or marking period.
Finally, FYI emails are nice things for you to know.
One of the drawbacks to this strategy is that you may wind up moving emails among Today, This Week, and This Month / Quarter all the time.
But that’s surprisingly not the case.
How much email do you get that really asks you do to something? How much of it really tells you something that you need to know?
Probably not much!
This email strategy is based on the idea that email, much like idle chitchat, can quickly bog you down when you’re trying to get something accomplished.
When you get an email with information that’s good to know, throw it in FYI.
If anything requests you to perform an action, categorize it in the proper timespan.
Otherwise, it goes in the trash!
4. Inbox Zero
Inbox Zero is one of the oldest email management strategies — but it’s been around so long because it’s so good!
Inbox Zero requires you to organize and categorize your email as quickly as you get it.
It empowers you with the knowledge of how to sort your inbox with automatic filters and folders for Gmail, Outlook, and more obscure email clients.
The reasoning behind this idea is simple: You know what 90% of the emails coming to you are going to say.
So why not use that knowledge you have to organize your emails before you get them?
As you get straggler emails — those that are from people you didn’t expect or asking tasks you didn’t expect — go to your inbox so you can deal with them as you need.
At the end of the day, your inbox should be completely clean unless you’re keeping an email to address later.
The results of this email strategy can literally change your life in terms of time management.
Email becomes readable. Your life becomes less cluttered. Your work becomes more focused.
All you have to do is set up a few folders, a handful of labels, and start sorting!
Yesterbox is an ultra-straightforward email management technique that requires you to answer all of the emails you got the day before.
There’s not much to this strategy in terms of organization or structure. Most of Yesterbox is based on the idea that you can catch up on non-urgent items the next day.
For urgent items, you can still reply or perform a task right away.
But really — how many emails do you get that are urgent compared to those that you could answer tomorrow?
Yesterbox opens up your time every day to address more important things in work and life. Then, you can answer emails the next day — maybe during your daily email routine!
6. Email Templates
Email templates are a more generic email management strategy that are surprisingly effective.
Email templates let you pre-answer or pre-address certain situations that you think may come up.
While you’ll never be able to tell the future, you can save templates based on how your administrator likes to be addressed, notes about someone’s communication preferences, and more.
Some templates you create will get used more than others, and that’s okay.
Actually, it’s kind of the idea!
When you have templates for more predictable email use, you’ll be able to address the most common circumstances in your inbox with a quick couple of clicks.
Just like that, your inbox — and your mind — will be clearer!
7. Two-Minute Rule
The last strategy on our list is the two-minute rule.
The two-minute rule states that if someone’s asking you to do something and it’d take you fewer than two minutes to do, just get it done!
This email (and life) strategy mostly pertains to when people email you for reminders or resources.
If someone’s asking for your opinion or the latest version of a document, just reply, attach what’s needed, and get on with your day.
Your colleagues will love that you answer so promptly, and you’ll love that you won’t have to remind yourself to email someone the next day.
Did You Like Our Email Strategies? Subscribe to the AES Blog!
For more on teaching, curriculum, and the latest in education, subscribe to the AES blog today!