Tag Archives: email

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The Dark Truth of Email Tips

The poet who couldn't write poetry

Once again, xkcd has gotten pretty directly at the truth of those of us with email struggles:


Merlin Mann has always suggested that people focused on the wrong parts of his somewhere-between-legendary-and-notorious “Inbox Zero” talk–that it was always about the psychology of email triage as much as tips and tricks for getting through email faster.

Photo probably “The Poet Who Couldn’t Write Poetry” (“Image from page 173 of ‘St. Nicholas’ (1873)”) by Flickr user Internet Archive Book Images /

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Is This Still a Thing? Looking Back at Unroll.me

unfurling fern

ProfHacker has been writing posts for a long time now, and in addition to all the evergreen posts about writing and syllabus design and so forth, we’ve also covered a lot of tech. I’ve been kicking around the idea of an occasional series called “Is This Still a Thing?,” in which I look back at an app, service, or gadget we’ve reviewed, and briefly update readers on its status.

For one reason or another, I’ve dithered in getting this off the ground, but recent revelations about Unroll.me have s…

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When Should You Reply to Email?

cat at laptop

An uncomfortable truth about the modern workplace is that many people are buried under a seemingly-endless flow of email. Reading it, responding to it, and managing it can take a lot of time unless you have a good system in place. Today I just want to focus on the question of when you should respond to email.

Reply to email on your own schedule, not whenever your software notifies you a new item has arrived. The most important way to gain some control over the firehose of email is to set aside …

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Communicating with Students: A Suggestion About Email

Rendered three-dimensional @ symbol, here used to represent email.

Here at ProfHacker, we’ve written several posts about email over the years. I don’t know about you, but it feels like I receive way more email than I know what to do with. And regardless of who is sending them, a significant percentage of the emails that I do receive are, shall we say, constructed in a manner than is less than ideal: vague subject lines, announcements that include all important information in an image attachment, requests for information that take the sender 5 minutes to ask bu…

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Defend Against Disruption and Distraction

squawk bird

Many professionals today struggle to handle interruptions that can pull you away from focused work. Interruptions come in lots of different forms, such as notifications of email or text messages, phone calls, someone knocking on your office door, or your own stream of thoughts.

In a recent episode of the Productivityist podcast, Mike Vardy talks about the distinction he makes between disruptions and distractions:

Disruptions are things that:

  • actually do demand your attention or response
  • are of…
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Managing Expectations

Dog on roof, asking how we manage expectationsFinding appropriate work-life balance seems to be a never-ending quest in many lines of work, and academia is no exception. It’s all too easy to work far too late into the evening, grading, preparing classes, or (everyone’s favorite!) answering email.

This year, I’ve been reminded of just how important it is to manage both my own and other’s expectations about communications and working hours if I’m to have a hope of attaining something at least resembling balance. There are a few practices I’ve…

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Tools That Stay Out of the Way

A drawing showing an assortment of hand tools

Picking the right tools for our work is important. I’ve written about some of my favorite tools in this space before, including in this post from — gulp! — five years ago. (I’m still using Dropbox and Google Documents; I’ve abandoned the Rollabind for my iPad and I don’t use the whiteboard much anymore.)

Others have written about the importance of making prudent choices about the tools we use and about lessons learned from being an indiscriminate tool adopter.

As we choose our tools, it’s good …

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Revisiting Mailbox for Managing Emails

Just over two years ago, I wrote about my early experiences with the Mailbox email application. Since then a lot has happened with Mailbox: it was acquired by Dropbox, for one, and it has released openly-available apps for iPad, iPhone, and Android Phones, as well as a beta desktop application for OS X. I’ve been using Mailbox since then—save one brief flirtation with Inbox for Gmail, which borrows many of Mailbox’s ideas and about which I may write soon—and wanted to write a brief followup.

Fi…

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Ten Things to Do Instead of Checking Email

steaming pot

So, let’s imagine that you’re in your office, and have about 15 minutes before you need to walk out of your building to get to a meeting. What do you do in those 15 minutes?

Many readers probably answered “check email.” Checking email has become the default work-ish activity for many professionals. I said work-ish because while checking email may be work-related, for most people it is not a central activity of their work.

In fact, checking email can easily become a kind of distraction, keeping …

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Email Overload? A Review of Sanebox, an Email Management Tool

SaneBox_-_Email_Management_for_Any_Inbox

I often refer to my inbox as the abyss from which few return, given how overwhelmed I generally am. Faced with a constant email deluge, I’m always worried that I will forget to answer important emails (I do), or even non-urgent ones that may fall off the face of the earth once they get buried at the bottom of my to-answer pile.

I’ve been trying out Sanebox, an email overload solution, for the past month and have been using it enough to warrant forking out money for their paid services. Sanebox …