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The Inbox Escape Plan – Creating a Label in Gmail

The Inbox Escape Plan – Creating a Label in Gmail

In a previous blog post I talked about the importance of creating a follow up label in Gmail. In this post I wanted to share a few of my labels that I use and share a quick video tutorial on how to create labels.

What is a label in Gmail?

When you label something in Gmail it is like you are moving it into a folder. One perk of using labels instead of folders is that you can give an email multiple labels instead of placing it in a single folder. You can also nest labels under a parent label. So you could have a label for Teachers and then a nested label for each teacher’s name.

So how do you set up a label?

In the video below, I show you the steps that you need to follow in order to create a label in Gmail.

How to Create a Label in Gmail

My labels

Labels are free and easy so I suggest you create as many as you need but be careful to go overboard because you do not want to create more work for your self. In my work email I have three labels that I use.

My work email labels.

My most used label is the Follow Up label. The Follow Up label is crucial for making sure that you are getting responses to important emails. If I send an email and want to make sure that I get a response I will label it with Follow Up.

I use the Need to Respond label to quickly identify emails that require a response. For example if I get an email with a request and I promise a response at a later date, I will label it Need to Respond so I can quickly find it. This label is great for holding yourself accountable for closing any open email loops you may have.

The last label I use is To Share. I am constantly finding things that I want to share with my staff. To avoid cognitive overload for my teachers I like to space out my shares. The To Share label acts as a temporary saving place for me until I am ready to share. After sharing I will remove the label so it no longer appears in this list.

If you have any questions about labels or want to talk more about productivity at school please don’t hesitate to reach out!

The Inbox Escape Plan Part 3 – The Follow Up

The Inbox Escape Plan Part 3 – The Follow Up

In my previous post I talked a little about the importance of the follow up. I used to think that sending a follow up email was rude because I was bugging the person I emailed. I mean obviously my initial email was as important to them as it was to me (please note my extreme sarcasm). Over this past year I have learned that follow up emails are not rude and at times are necessary to help get things done.

So how do you make sure you follow up on important emails? You could try and remember every single email that you sent but chances are no matter how great your memory is, you are going to forget one or two emails. Also storing information like this in your memory is not the best use of your mental strength. As this blog post from LifeHacker points out, the end goal of “productivity” is to spend less time doing the things you have to do so you have more time for the things you want to do. Sorry but remembering what emails require a follow up are not that important. Below is the workflow that I use to keep track of my follow ups.  

The Follow Up Label

To track the emails that I want to follow up on I created a follow up label in my Gmail account. Any time I send an email that requires a follow up I quickly label it with the follow up label. Tagging the email with this label automatically creates a follow up list that I can use to keep track of which emails I have not got a reply from. Once I get a reply from the recipient I will either remove the label if the conversation is over or leave it if the email requires an important future reply. This entire process only takes a few seconds but can have a huge impact on your response rate. For more on labels in Gmail please click here.

Set Aside Time to Check the Follow Up List

Creating a list is one thing. Checking the list is another. In my calendar I have a weekly event scheduled that reminds me to check my follow up list. I decided to create a weekly reminder instead of a daily reminder to allow recipients the opportunity to respond before I follow up with them. If I have not heard back from you within a week it’s a sign to me that I need to send a quick nudge to get a reply. Creating an event in my calendar has also helped me build the habit of checking my follow up list.

Be Polite

When composing your follow up email it’s important to remain polite. I know our instinct is to get angry because we feel that the person is avoiding us on purpose. Instead of getting angry I would encourage you to assume positive intent. The more positive you are with your follow up the more likely you are to get a response.

Now does this system work 100% of the time? Of course not but it has increased the number of responses I get to emails. There are times that I have had to let go of some emails because I sent a few follow ups and got no response. In situations like this you may want to rethink your communication strategy and choose a different medium.


The Great 2017-2018 Slack Experiment

The Great 2017-2018 Slack Experiment

One of my school’s new initiatives this year is the implementation of Slack. We believe that by implementing Slack school wide that we will be able to increase staff communication and transparency. In this post I want to share the why behind our implementation of Slack, a brief explanation of what Slack is, and share two Slack basics along with some tips and tricks!

Why Slack?

As a school leader it is crucial that we build a strong culture amongst teachers, staff members, and administrators. In many schools, culture is rooted in the ways teammates and coworkers communicate. A lack of communication between staff members can cause unnecessary stress and confusion which can lead to negative feelings about work. A lack of communication can also lead to staff members starting to question if their school leaders are being transparent about decisions. When communication and transparency break down staff becomes unhappy and unmotivated to do their best on a daily basis. So how can school leaders increase communication and transparency with their staff? I believe that the answer is using Searchable Log of All Conversation and Knowledge aka Slack.

What is Slack?

Slack is a cloud based collaboration tool that looks to increase team communication. Slack combines text messaging, instant messaging, and group chats all into one powerful tool. In Slack conversations are organized by topic through a series of private or public channels. With Slack users can share files, engage in public and private communication, and quickly search for messages and files that have been posted in Slack. Slack is free for teams, can be set up in a few minutes, and is not limited to any specific platform.

Slack Basics

What is a channel in Slack?

An easy way to think of a channel is to view it like a hashtag on social media. Just like hashtags, channels are used to organize conversations. Organizing your conversations with channels is key to making sure that the general chat room does not become overwhelming for users.

Slack by default creates two channels for you when you set up your team. #general channel is for general group conversation. This is a great channel to use for all staff announcements or information that you need everyone on the team to receive. The second channel that Slack creates for you is #random. This channel is great for non work talk and for fun conversations.

To create additional channels in Slack click on the plus sign next to Channels. If you click on the word Channels you can browse and join any public channels that have already been created in your team.

The first step when creating a channel in Slack you will need to decide if you want the channel to be public (any user on your team can join) or private (only users you invite can join). To create transparency with your staff you will want to have a majority of your channels be public. The only time that I would recommend creating a private channel is if you will be sharing confidential information in the channel (private student information, information about staff members, etc.). After setting your channel’s visibility you will need to give your channel a name. If you will be using slack across campuses I would suggest creating a naming convention that quickly identifies each campus. For example if I wanted to create a channel about math instruction at Middle School One I could call the channel #MS1 Math.

What is a direct message in Slack?

Direct messages in Slack are one on one or small group conversations. A direct message is similar to a Google Hangout or any other instant messaging program. Sending a direct message can be done by click on a user’s username in the sidebar or by clicking the plus sign. If you click on the words Direct Messages you can also see a list of all of your previous direct messages or search for a particular conversation.

When sending a direct message I would suggest tagging the user by typing @ and their slack user name. I have known of a few people who turn off channel and direct message notifications but leave on tagging notifications so I always tag the user I am trying to speak with.

If you currently use Slack with your staff I would love to connect and talk more. You can reach me by completing my contact form.