The week before last I was sick and therefore out of office for three days. When I checked my inbox after my leave I found it clogged with emails. More clogged than on a usual Monday, that is. Usually I stoicly answer email after email from top to bottom.
However, I found that my regular approach to getting atop of the pile of emails did not work. So I tried something new. I answered the most important emails first. People call it prioritising and it’s quite a shocking technique. That also didn’t work for me because how am I supposed to decide whether emails regarding my PhD project a more important than those pertaining to organising a conference in autumn? Students‘ emails are time-sensitive, too, because they want to start their essays.
In the end I settled for categorising by topic: Conference, course related emails, administrative stuff and general emails from colleagues.
It still took me all day (well all of my work day but that is a topic for another time) to answer everybody. The difference to my usual approach was that I didn’t feel as crushed as I normally do. Breaking up one big task (answer all the emails) into smaller tasks (answer one category of emails and then the next and so on) was utterly relieving.