E-Mail Overload… or Workload Overload?

The following link was shared with me today.    http://emailcharter.org

I spend my life in meetings, giving direction (I’m a director!), responding to e-mails, updating web information, managing software, servers, budgets, personnel issues…  and doing work for others in the form of e-mails!  Most of the work comes through e-mails!  Requests for administrivia in the form of reports.  Requests for responses about progress on work that did not have a deadline. Rude requests. Requests for opinions (should they be long or short?). Requests to share information in the form of e-mails. Requests for documents in the form of attachments to e-mails. Requests for me to read e-mails that do not require a response.  Responses to me that do not require a response.  Requests that I make arrangements for a program because someone doesn’t know the process, doesn’t care, doesn’t have time to do it, and I should handle it all for them (yeah, rude eh?).  And my favorite, requests for me to near instantly solve a problem for someone that, had they done some planning, would not end up as an emergency for me to handle so that they don’t look like they couldn’t plan a simple program, project, whatever…

E-mail madness?  Yes!

So what do I do?   Stop doing work in the form of e-mail?  What about communication?  Should I go to more meetings instead?  Should I wait two weeks to share information about an issue with the group?  What if others perceive the issue as more important than a two week wait? Others are rarely at their desk… they are in meetings!  So using the phone is waste of time, especially if you need to communicate the same information to a group! How else do you communicate with them?  Sending an e-mail gets the message to the other person(s) instantly.  Do I expect an immediate response?  No. Unless I say that in the message…  Should I expect an instant response?  No.  If I have an urgent request, I shouldn’t use e-mail. Am I wasting my time and that of others?  Yes, if I don’t use the tool properly. E-mail is informal.  Should I waste my time getting the message pristine so I save others time from determining what the meaning of “is” is? Be glad I don’t type ur for your and you’re.  And yes, I know the difference!

Here’s the deal.  I’m busy. Way back when we communicated on paper and by phone exclusively we spent about the same time in our offices and we got less volume of work done.  Now we get more work done in less time.  I wonder how that happens!?!  E-mails perhaps?!?!  Now, everything, including e-mails, are perceived to require instant attention.  I even have folks call me, indignant that I was at a meeting getting my work done, when they needed a response to that e-mail they sent me just an hour ago so that they can get their work done. What?!?  I still haven’t heard back from you on my e-mail request from a week ago?!?

Get over e-mail overload, or your workload or my workload overload.  We all have work to do.  Don’t waste my time with requests for me to get work done if you don’t want me to share all the information on a subject that makes me comfortable that I have done my job as a professional so that you can get your work done more quickly.

Oh yeah.  I was wasting my personal time reading work email at 9 PM while trying not take too long to get to colleagues e-mails that were informational (I think, because that wasn’t clear) and be sure they didn’t require a timely response, like the one sent a few weeks ago, after office hours, that required 4 hours of research time from me  and a response was required by 9 AM the next morning, a half hour  after I arrived at work.

Confused?  Me too!

Actually, the best advice I am aware of for dealing with e-mail came from the website 43folders.com/howto and Merlin Mann, who visited CCSU and spoke on the subject.  (I love the “Suck” list.) “Follow” him @hotdogsladies

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Time to Put the Money Where the Mouth Is…

Like I’ve said to my colleagues in the past, it’s not that tuition is going up so much as it is state support of public higher education is going down. Well, that and the parental and student requirements of five star hotel services on campus, including unlimited counseling services, free movie channels, free phone and wi-fi internet services, on demand food services, free right-next-to-my-classroom-door parking… you get my drift.

Oh yeah… and then OUR government tells us higher education is important, but not so much as wanting to spend money on it in support of the progress of the country and all.  The following short note was posted in Inside Higher Ed today…

“State spending on higher education increased by $10.5 billion in absolute terms from 1990 to 2010, but considering changes in enrollments and inflation, funding per public full-time equivalent student dropped by 26.1 percent from 1990-1991 to 2009-2010, according to a report released Monday by the think tank Demos. During the same period, the report documents, tuition at public institution has seen large increases in many states. While many of those states have also increased aid budgets, a large share of those funds has gone to programs that are not based on financial need. The report notes that household income has not generally increased to match the tuition increases, and that the volume of outstanding student debt has grown by a factor of 4.5 since 1999.”

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Sometimes It Just Takes Time

I’m sure you’ve had this experience at some point in your life, even if you’re a youngster reading this.  You want to do something, or you have an idea, or you know in your gut something should be a certain way, but only you and a few around you get it.  You know like… when just a few are there with ya and ya feel the positive energy and the validity of your concept.  You know it’s time to do something different, but folks hold on to what they know, or what they like or are familiar with. Change just isn’t easy for most people.  So you work on getting what you want done, or changed or set a goal to make this thing happen and you work toward it and you get folks to think about it, try it out, support you etc.  You have to show some how you came to theBeautiful! conclusion, others accept it on face value, and frankly, some folks just don’t get it and are too stubborn to even give your idea a try.  And then one day, you turn around and review where you are and…  everyone finally caught up to you.  They get it.  They’ve joined in with your idea, are taking action, or support making that change and that’s a good feeling.  Along the way though it’s certainly tough on you.  It takes time, you have  to weather the storm, hang in there, manage the chills and the heat.  But once you get there… beautiful.

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Trolling for FUN!

Then I decided to do something fun with a project I called Trollcam.  We set up a camera in a non-descript room and shot several hundred photos of our 1964 produced (verified), in a graduate outfit, collectors troll from Maine.  People who could find the web link on the Student Center website were in for a treat as the troll moved about the room, teasing playfully with the camera and even posing in some naughty positions…  if you waited long enough!  We’ve resurrected that fun on our website.  Have fun searching for the link.  The troll actually lives in the Student Center, (no joke) and is taken care of daily by a great group of students who have given it a home in their office.

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Communicating Face-to-Face… Virtually!

In 1998, I started playing around with webcams.  Not for any smutty purpose, but to record the renovation and additions on the CCSU Student Center.  It was a cool project… install an ethernet drop in the fire escape stairwell of the library, get power out there for the cam, and then find a way to hang the camera where the interior glass would not reflect back the image of the camera.  Of course I also had to find a way to keep the beast cool, capture and store an image every few hours, and provide a good view of the project for those visiting the cam in the middle of the night from India, China, Turkey etc.  At the time, people thought I was crazy, until student unions all over the country started doing the same thing by calling me and finding out how to do it! Oh! The face-to-face point is… I had a parent call me from Canada when the camera was just a view of the circle on campus and tell me the web cam was down. She and her daughter “met” on the webcam each day from the top stair near the “drum”, just to wave and indicate all was well, and she missed that live face-to-face meeting.

By 2003, I had enough time once again to start playing with an office webcam.  Cool, cheap cams, with lousy pictures and sound capabilities abound, but I chose a new, and relatively expensive cam (Logitech Orbit) to put on my desk!  My dad, 84 at the time, missed seeing me at the construction site webcam, and so I surprised him with a link to my office so he could “view” me each day at work.  That camera still runs to this day, and folks have recorded “snapshots” from the browser based website and I have a nice album of office moves, staff visits, cleaning staff, and even and unscheduled “party” in my office while I was away.  He enjoyed that face-to-face live contact each day until he died of brain cancer a few years ago.  The cam is still running though!  Students live to see the Director staring blankly at a computer screen or watch me talk on the phone.

With the advent of Skype, (otismt2) I “view and talk” with colleagues from as close as campus, to as far away as California, Australia, Italy and Germany.  No charge to the state.* I’m looking forward to using the newly installed webex software (video capable) which we used to broadcast a union meeting this summer, and do a webinar or facilitate a workshop via screen sharing in the next year.

This technology stuff is pretty cool.  Yup.  Why travel when you can meet face-to face from your desk?!?

* Except for the use of the internet connection of course…

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