While taking part in some workshops over the past 6 months I became aware that there’s
heaps of (edit: my exaggeration) teachers in TAFE who log in to their email once or twice a week just to delete all the unread email - without reading it! My initial reaction (as someone who loves technology) was “That’s crazy… irresponsible even??”. But when I thought about it from their perspective (as people who don’t use a lot of technology), I wondered if I’d do the same thing in their situation? ( …I think it’s even sensible in some circumstances!)
Working for a large organisation in the public sector, with lots of people who need to let lots of other people know about stuff, the sheer volume of email that people have to deal can be a huge barrier to effective communication. When you combine this with the fact that some teachers are only in the office for half-an-hour once a week (and don’t check email from home for various reasons), checking your inbox for relevant information becomes near impossible.
And here inlies the problem… a lot of information that ends up in our inboxes is irrelevant to many individuals.
Looking at the last two days of email that I’ve received at work, there are 29 emails in total. That’s not bad (in fact, from what I hear from some managers, I shouldn’t be complaining). But of those 29, only 6 are relevant to me.
There’s lots of email that comes to me that I don’t care about. I personally don’t need to know that the Sharepoint service is unavailable, or that it is back online… I’m not part of the target audience for this email… is it possible to reach the target audience (i.e. those who are currently using Sharepoint services) without emailing everyone in the organisation? Perhaps a more effective communication would be to setup the Sharepoint web-server so that when Sharepoint it is taken off-line the web server simply responds with a web page describing the situation to those who try to access it…
Not to single out Sharepoint… we could instead talk about Expressions of Interest emails or Teachers Federation emails (yeah, that’s you Gary ) - the bottom line is that by bombarding people with email, we’re inevitably reducing the effectiveness of our communication (’cause people will stop reading it!)
Of course TAFE isn’t alone with this problem, a quick Google search for Drowning in email shows the extent of the problem. The issue for us end-users in large organisations is that we can’t control what’s sent to us… but we can control what gets to our Inbox…
“Managing your Inbox!”
After chatting with a number of people, I reckon lots of workers would benefit from a short (1hr) training session that got participants actively involved in setting up Rules to manage their inbox… Even in the unlikely scenario that people didn’t feel confident after the session to create rules on their own, they’d have some basic ones setup by the end of the session to help them on their way.
This kind of learning is great ‘cause real examples can be used for activities during the learning session, and participants can obviously use their real email Inbox. The facilitator could send five emails to the whole group with “Expression of Interest” or “EOI” as the subject… just to demonstrate the typical scenario (just in case anyone was unclear!). These emails can then be used to create the new rule automatically (see the Microsoft Assistance article: Let rules help clear out your crowded Inbox), which can be tested with a few more EOI’s from the facilitator.
The facilitator could then play the role of the friend who sends at least 3 emails per week promising love, happiness and money if you just forward it on to everyone you know - giving the participants a chance to create a rule based on the sender’s address. Followed by the spammer etc. - it could be lots of fun, quick and snappy, and completely interactive! Participants come away with a great outcome - a more manageable Inbox!
Enabling people to control what gets into their Inbox might just help some people to read the relevant emails (and Big Brother can always see who’s filtering their bosses emails to the Trash).