Stupid Email

The semester has started. I hate it when semesters start, yet the bastards keep doing it.

Why the hate, you ask? Don’t you like teaching?

Actually, I love teaching. I don’t mind students returning one bit; students are cool and fun and make the campus alive and bubbly. I don’t object at all to the professing part of being a professor.

What I hate is the onslaught of crap, specifically email crap. There is so much service to be done, and so much information to be shared with everyone everywhere, that I could easily just teach, do service, and read emails, and I would fill up 40+ hours a week. It’s completely nuts.

There are all these people who start bombarding me (and presumably everyone else with a university address) on the first day of class with all sorts of notices (Webinar! Workshop! Yet another seminar series! Cookies with the janitor!), requests (Serve on yet another committee! Sure, you got time!), and queries (How’s the work-life balance? How’s your work climate? Are you sure you got enough service? Are you reeeeeeely sure?).

Where the fuck are all those email senders all summer? Faculty have 9-month appointments, so one could say that if they are not paid they don’t have to be there (although at a research institution all faculty are expected to do research full-steam all summer and, in the sciences and engineering, have their salary paid on grants); most faculty either work or travel for work all summer. But all staff have 12-month appointments, so they should technically be here and working. so what are all these prolific emailers up to all summer when they are not drowning everyone around them in emails? If all summer can go by without all this stupid email traffic, then I bet most of semester’s email activity is not actually critical for anything either, because most messages have nothing to do with students.

I am seriously thinking about all but abandoning my university email and checking it only once a week or so, because I don’t know how to handle the barrage of messages that are not technically spam (although they are in the sense ” I don’t want this information, leave me alone and take me off these goddamn lists”); I can’t just block the domain or subdomains or even specific people, because I work here and some stuff may actually be useful or important. The thing is, I want to be accessible, but this is just really disruptive and unbelievably annoying.

I am thinking of switching to a special Gmail account (to which I will NOT be forwarding from my university one) for communication with my students and a few trusted colleagues. Or maybe I should just be texting.

How did it come to this that I have to devise evasive maneuvers in order to have some time to actually do the work for which an advanced degree is required?

14 comments

  1. What I hate is that each and every office on campus feels the need to send an email that could just as easily be titled “Remember! We exist!” during the first week of the term.

  2. Set a filter that sends all university email into a separate folder and only open this folder once a week?

    Seriously though, I’ve got the same problem. What I do is to skim the subject and if it’s something that is of no interest whatsoever (e.g. English Theory Seminars or whatever), off into the bin it goes. If it’s potentially relevant, I open and skim the first paragraph and again based on this triage, off into the bin it goes. I think about 90% of emails end up in the bin For me the trick is to just do this without getting annoyed about it (much easier said than done, but I am improving), but if I do manage to do this calmly, it takes me 10min or so a day.

  3. Yup.

    FWIW, here’s my strategy: check email early and just delete all such spammy type things without opening them. Check email to SEND things I need around lunch time. Check email to REPLY later in the day. When I don’t do this (umm, yesterday) I have the potential to get caught up in conversations, instead of just replying at the tail end of things.

    I mostly use my university account for everything (I do have gmail but don’t use it ever) with the exception of online purchases and the blog. I might need to switch this as sometimes it gets overloaded with LG’s school stff….

    But, yeah, beginning of the semester. Crazy.

  4. I completely agree with you.
    For whatever reason, there is always something anxiety inducing for me about waking up in the morning and seeing that stupid unread email icon on my phone. Don’t know how to avoid it though, like AnonP, I spend 10 min over breakfast just deleting crap. Seriously, part of what makes me more relaxed in the summer is not having to wake up every morning and feel instantly stressed that I might have dropped the ball on something because of all the f*$%ing emails.

  5. Do people seriously still literally delete email? I think I gave that up when they invented gmail.

    But I agree it is difficult to work when there is a new email to look at every two minutes. One of these days I’m going to learn some time management skills and figure out how to silence email for large portions of the day.

  6. Is it the existence of those emails or the interruption that’s the problem?

    No one needs to have a faster than 24 hour email turn-around. (Even if you think you do, try it for a month. I bet you’ll find that having a 24 hour email turn-around is plenty.) Check your email once a day. It takes just a second to delete the crap (you can usually tell its garbage within the first paragraph), so all those “we exist” emails from your university groups only take a few seconds each to delete, and it adds a minute or two to your email check.

    Most importantly, turn off that “you just got a mail message” blinker so you can get some real work done.

  7. I once overheard a university administrator talking to another administrator: he literally said, “(So-and-so) is an excellent professor. He always replies to my emails within ten minutes.”

  8. Dean Pavlov is an excellent administrator. Every time I bark on command he writes something on his clipboard and gives me a treat.

  9. I have a filter that automatically reroutes emails sent to large groups of people to a folder of unimportant things, which I check every few days. I figure if there’s an emergency, I’ll find out about it some other way. It looks like I have >1600 unread messages in this folder. I don’t believe I’ve missed anything important.

  10. Right now I’d settle for being able to get off the teaching center’s email list. (They send from different emails too, so I can’t just block one!) I am starting to filter them into spam, but boy are they chatty.

  11. There’s an admin in a graduate program I am (very loosely) affiliated with. She’s a nice woman and very conscientious, but she sends every goddamn notice at least 5 times. Twice the week before and every day the week of, until the event happens. And by an event I mean everyone’s student’s prospectus or defense, every meeting, every visitor coming around. I eventually had to blacklist her, so all her email goes to junk now.

  12. I rapidly delete all those that start with [Informational]. Unfortunately one of every hundred is actually important and I eventually have to hunt for it in my deleted mail folder.

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