THL Toolbox > Community & Communication > Emailing
Contributor(s): David Germano.
Email has spearheaded a revolution in communication with tremendous impact on academics. It has made possible new forms of collaboration across geographical distances, and opened up new avenues of communication and exchange even for people in the same local community. At the same time, it has also created new challenges and can become a source of frustration and overload. Collaboration digital initiatives such as THL greatly benefit from email, yet its important in these contexts as well to use email with intelligence in order to derive its fullest benefit and avoid its pitfalls. The present document aims to provide some tips on email usage in this context. All specific suggestions are explained with Outlook 2003 as the reference point for one’s email program, but any good email program should allow for the same capacities. We welcome any similar documentation of other email programs and will be happy to post them. Please contact us at .
One of the most vexing problems of email is in the problem of spam, as one spends precious time identifying and deleting spam, while simultaneously being distracted from important mail. However, a few simple steps greatly reduce the problem. First use the junk mail filter, which automatically identifies incoming junk mail and deposits it in a special junk mail folder (actions: junk mail). You can set the filtering to “high”, and in our experience it will rarely catch a non-junk mail item. If it does, however, its simply to review the junk mail filter before emptying periodically, which will then permanently delete the offending mail.
However, even set at “high” some spam continues to get through A simple solution to the remaining spam is to use the tools: rules and alerts feature. This allows you to create new rules that will perform automated actions to specific types of email. If you create rule which takes all email that doesn’t have your name in the “to” or “cc” field and reroutes it to a folder named, say, “impersonal email”, this will take care of all but the smallest portion of spam. It will also reroute mailing list items you may receive as well, allowing you to examine them at their leisure.
These simple actions leave your inbox limited to mail sent specifically to you and demanding your specific attention. This may seem a simple thing, but in our experience we have found this helps tremendously with the problem of a bloated and out of control inbox.
One can further use the “rules and alerts” feature to direct specific types of emails to specific folders, further organizing your email in an automated way. Thus a daily mailing list on Buddhist Studies, say, or a daily "tips" email from PC Magazine, can be channeled directly into a folder of that name, or a collective folder named "mailing lists". That allows one to check it when on ehas time, and not be distracted by having it appear in one's inbox. Minimizing distraction and focused communications
We also recommend against using features that allow you to have an automated message float across your screen whenever an email shows up. This may seem convenient, but it ends up being a tremendously distracting influence. In addition, we advise in general not constantly checking email, but rather periodically checking, since each time you check a certain amount of time is taken up in the mere action of checking, while your time and attention gets fractured.
Some activities within THL can benefit from a constant back and forth, but it can easily become excessive. We have three simple solutions to address such a potential problem. Firstly, consider sometimes a revolutionary idea – phone! For some situations, a simple phone call can be far more effective than multiple email exchanges. Secondly, if you have regular exchanges with someone on important issues and your inbox is busy, consider making a folder with their name and creating a rule to automatically filter email from that person to that folder. That allows you at all times to quickly see what email is presently waiting to be acted upon from that person. Thirdly, consider a once a week exchange of “report” and “plan”. Every Friday one person can “report”, and before Monday the other person can respond with a revised “plan of action”. By keeping track of various issues not requiring immediate attention during the week and channeling them into either the “report” or the “plan”, this can greatly cut down on email traffic. As a consequence, distractions are minimized and the likelihood of requests being neglected is reduced.