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I was recently asked for a copy of this article which I originally wrote for the Ontario Association of School Business Officials magazine, “The Advocate” in the spring of 2008. I hope it helps! If you have other suggestions for managing your email, please leave them in the comments.

Email is quite possibly the biggest time-sucker of my day. I know I am not alone because there are thousands of articles like this one on how to deal with e-mail overload. I will attempt to condense the common wisdom on the topic and share a few personal strategies.
You are probably reading this because, like me, you receive hundreds of e-mails every day. When you “do the math” it means that you get one e-mail every four minutes. The trap I am most likely to fall into is that I start checking | my e-mail and, during that time, I receive five new ones. I then handle those and receive more. An entire morning can be spent checking e-mails. The following points have proven helpful in avoiding this trap:

1. Think of an e-mail as a “micro-meeting”

One of e-mail’s strengths is leveraging asynchronous communication, i.e., I can send an e-mail when it is | convenient for me and you can read it when it is convenient for you. This is a great advantage in education because | teachers are not available via e-mail during their lessons, and it is unlikely that others know when each teacher has a preparation period.
This may also be what keeps us from looking at e-mail as a kind of “micro-meeting.” Each e-mail is an agenda item on a meeting between the sender and the recipient. No one has a problem scheduling time for an in-person meeting so I wonder why We don’t schedule time to address our e-mails. E-mail gets out of control for some of us because we fail to schedule | time in our day to conduct these micro-meetings. As a result, we often end up using time in the evening or over the weekend to catch up, interfering with our personal lives and adding to Work stress. You may not know how much time you have to schedule but try starting with one minute per e-mail and go from there as you gain experience.
Draw a line in the sand. Make a note of the last e-mail in your inbox and resolve to not go past it. New e-mails will Wait until next time.

2. Never check e-mail in the morning

This strategy I owe to Julie Morgenstern and her book called Never Check Your Email in the Morning. Management consultant Ivy Lee recommended spending each morning doing the most important task to your business and working on it until it is finished. Charles Schwab, then CEO of Bethlehem Steel, found this advice so valuable he sent Lee a check for $25,000 and a letter in which he said this was one of the most profitable lessons he had ever been taught. Lee’s advice was given before the advent of e-mail, but it still holds true. E-mail first thing in the morning is a guaranteed time waster and invitation to procrastinate. Use the morning to get at least one important task done. This will focus your efforts and put e-mail into perspective.

3. Let your e-mail program work for you

How many times have you been asked the same question in e-mail? Keep an electronic document with canned responses to frequently asked questions so you can cut and paste answers as needed.
Do you need to flag important messages or automatically file other messages? Use the “Rules” feature of your e-mail program to automatically apply certain actions to e-mails that meet certain criteria. For example, all e-mails from edu.gov.on.ca can be highlighted for your attention or automatically moved to a folder of your choosing.
Use the “Forward” function to pass tasks and information to your staff. There are people who feel it is best to e-mail the person at the top, but this doesn’t mean that you, as a manager, must personally deal with it. When you forward the message to a staff member, move the message to a folder called “Follow-Up.” Pick a few items per week from this folder to check up on, or have your staff routinely copy you on their replies. If you have briefed your staff in advance, you could also reply to the message saying, “Thank you for your e-mail. One of my colleagues will get back to you shortly.” You can also BCC (Blind Copy) the staff member to whom you delegate this task.
Sort your messages in reverse chronological order. This means you will always be addressing the oldest issues first. I switch this sorting option often, chronological order for day to day so that I stay on top of emergencies, and reverse chronological order for those times I have set aside a block of time for catching up on e-mail.
Email can be a useful tool, but it must be used wisely. It is important to guard against e-mail overload which can hinder your professional success and steal time away from your personal life.

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I was listening to the news report on CBC recently about Stephanie Rengel, the young Toronto girl murdered recently. Under the Youth Criminal Justice Act media were forbidden from identifying Stefanie or the two youths accused of her murder. Of course, this did not stop Stefanie’s friends from creating a Facebook memorial for their friend which violated all aspects of the ban. More on the CBC report here

This got me thinking about the futility of publication bans in the internet age. It also got me wondering if these students were aware of the ban and decided to ignore it, were unaware of the ban or (and I think this is the most likely) were aware of the ban and unaware that their Facebook memorial violated it and the privacy of their friend’s family.

There is a great article in December Wired magazine about managing your online presence or taking care of the “Brand Called You”. Don’t ban facebook, teach facebook.

Instead of banning students from Social Networking and other Web 2.0 phenomenons we should be teaching them about the oldest lesson in creative writing – Consider Your Audience…and how that advice applies to the Web 2.0 paradigm.

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So we just finished a day of reviewing the board’s current plan with the IT Planning Committee. I thought it went really well. There were a number of things we talked about but the one that stuck with me was the concept of glanceability. It is not anything new but when you start talking about dashboards and tag clouds in the context of student achievement it gets people thinking (me included). A tag cloud of students where their name is larger the more “at risk” alarm bells they set off…And then someone says “Can you add another data set that would change the colour?” Wow…can I? You bet I can. Is it geeky that this stuff gets me excited? You bet it is.

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Well, I am definitely not the first person to blog about their first impressions of the eeepc, probably not even the thousandth. But my question is does the Eee PC have a place in the arsenal of tools teachers will use in classrooms. I say that because I have no doubt that this machine will make its way into the class, particularly after this Christmas. My question is should it be recommended and purchased for use in the classroom by me? My answer right now is No. It\‘s tough buying an Alphasmart or Neo for $300 when you can buy a micro laptop for the same price that can run XP and Linux. Having said that, anyone who has attempted typing on the Eee PC will recognize immediately that it is not appropriate for Special Education use. The small screen is difficult to read and would be tough on young eyes. I have successfully installed Wine on the Xandros Linux partition and have run a few programs like Kidworks and Speedway..they look great but again very small. Anyway, it has been long enough since I have been in the classroom that I will definitely need a second opinion. I plan on posting my eeepc experience here and will give (hopefully) very specific instructions to configure the Linux partition with Wine and some Windows software titles. First off, I need to make a backup of the default install. It is on DVD but what a pain it is to get an external DVD drive and hook it up everytime I break the thing. So, there are instructions on using a Windows XP computer with DVD drive to copy the contents of the DVD to a USB Key which I plan on checking out tomorrow.

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