I am speaking specifically about the issue of our school/work email. After making various efforts to curtail my checking of school email off-hours over the years, and failing, I am several months in to a successful resolution: to limit my email-checking when not physically at school. "Limit" sounds vague and resolutions should be specific, but more on that in a minute.
Why do I think this resolution is important? Let's face it, our jobs can be wicked stressful (there's my Boston comin' out). We have all kinds of demands placed on us. It can burn you the heck out. My experience in the past with checking email after hours at home is, I am sure, a common one. Once in awhile, an email will be there that stresses me out.. Fact is, when at home, there is really nothing I can do about that email. The problem will inevitably need to be resolved at school, via traditional face-to-face communication. What is the sense in knowing and obsessing about it, which takes me away from what is going on around me: opportunities to relax, enjoy leisure pursuits, spend time with family and friends, write this blog.
Another reason that I am seeking to avoid checking email when not at work is that it is not really expected, and shouldn't be. I am a public school SLP. This has several implications, one being that it is very, very, very rare that there is an emergency that involves me. If there is, my school generally reaches me by phone.
I have discussed these ideas before, and my doing so again serves the function of a) further committing to myself that I will keep this resolution and b) resurfacing a concept I feel strongly about but which is buried under heaps of other blog posts.
So, what am I doing about being "on Email?"
- When I arrive home from school each day I remind myself not to click that little FirstClass icon in the doc. I use self-talk such as "there will be plenty of time to check that when you arrive at school tomorrow morning."
- I am getting to school a little earlier so that I have an empty and quiet place to respond to emails.
- I am trying to keep email communications really short and to the point. When I know an email is bringing up an Issue, I try to go talk to/call the person and if I can't at that time, I send a quick acknowledgement and a "let's chat later" kind of message.
- Leading from that point, we of all people should know that email and other written communication can lack the nonverbals that soften a difficult message, and it therefore should not be used to convey that kind of message. It often just complicates the matter!
- Using an email schedule during the school day is also a good plan. I have a graduate student intern I will be observing part of the time, and it's tempting to be on email during her sessions. It's better to be present and engaged so that she can get the most out of her placement experience, and to better service my students.
- Email is still a great medium for asynchronous communication and sharing resources and tips with staff. It's important to keep in mind that teachers are hugely busy and we shouldn't expect them to take too many "action items" from email; you'll usually need to facilitate and help them get done what needs to get done. I feel lucky that I can at least go to the bathroom between sessions. Classroom teachers can't!
- I check email once over each (long) weekend. This may seem to be a contradiction of what I have resolved to do, but I am a .8 employee and therefore am not at school on Fridays. I don't want to be "off" email 3 days a week. I do limit the length of the email session and use the "mark as unread" function to remind myself to deal with a few emails when I get back to work.
- I have deleted the FirstClass app on my iPhone and iPad. At first it seemed to be cool to have them, but it has only really led to no good. It's not really that easy to type email on those devices anyway! And again, there is not and should not be any expectation that a public school SLP be accessible on email via your mobile device.
|Here's what it looked like when I deleted my FirstClass email from my iPhone. Jiggly mode, put to good use.|
So what are my results so far? Well, first of all, no one has complained about my response to email communications, and I don't feel like I am really falling behind, at least on things that email helps with! This is a new job for me and the transition has come with its expected share of anxiety, but I really think that this resolution has helped to remove myself from each work day and be present at home. This is not to say that I am not doing work at home, doing research to plan sessions, which is one of those creative aspects of my job that I really enjoy (and why I write here). That is the kind of work that really never involves drama.
How about you? What strategies do you have to manage work email? Any tips?