Research-based approaches to email & time management. Dr. Brad Mehlenbacher Leadership, Policy & Adult & Higher Education NC State University firstname.lastname@example.org www4.ncsu.edu/~brad_m. Higher education culture & rapid change.
Research-based approaches to email & time management Dr. Brad MehlenbacherLeadership, Policy &Adult & Higher EducationNC State Universitybrad_m@unity.ncsu.edu www4.ncsu.edu/~brad_m
Higher education culture & rapid change Work is information-intensive, customized, rapid, flexible, horizontal, integrated, service oriented, distributed, continuous, consultative (Asaolu, 2005, p. 337) “Access to education from any location, at any time, for any age, and in many ways is critical for individual and collective well-being” (Hanna, 2003, p. 68) Adopted from: Asaolu, O. S. (2006). On the emergence of new computer technologies. Educational Technology and Society, 9(1), 335–343. Hanna, D. E. (2003). Organizational models in higher education, past and future. In M. G. Moore & W. G. Anderson (Eds.), Handbook of Distance Education (pp. 67-78). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Managing multiple work-learning worlds Phase Transition: “The controlling factor here is not heat or energy but pure connectivity” “Night now, Daddy, you go ‘puter email” (Eleanor, 2 years old) “But where’s myemail?!” (Frances, 4 years old) Leisure Learning Work Learning Higher Learning • “Alienation from a natural milieu can be good for us and indeed is in many ways essential for full human life. To live and to understand fully, we need not only proximity but also distance…. Technologies are artificial, but — paradox again — artificiality is natural to human beings. Technology, properly interiorized, does not degrade human life but on the contrary enhances it” Adopted from: Gleick, J. (1999). Faster: The acceleration of just about everything. NY, NY: Pantheon Books. Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. NY, NY: Methuen, pp. 82-83.
E-mail is pervasive & ubiquitous • Knowledge workers average checking email 50 times/day, instant messaging 77 times, and visited over 40 websites • Email volume has doubled over last 5 years, to 40B person-to-person emails everyday (IBM Podcast, 2008) • Email “has evolved beyond a passive communication system” (MacKay, 1989, p. 395) • Email “is woven into the general system of coordinated activity” (Wattenberg, 2005, p. 144) • 74% of American adults use Internet; 69% online daily • 91% of them use e-mail • 71% of workers regard email as “essential” for their everyday work (Whittaker, 2005, p. 49). Adopted from: MacKay, W. E. (1989). Diversity in the use of electronic mail: A preliminary inquiry. ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems, 6 (4), 380-397. PEW Internet & American Project. (2009). Online Activities and Internet: The mainstreaming of online life. Available online: http://www.pewinternet.org Wattenberg, M., Rohall, S. L., Gruen, D., & Kerr, B. (2005). Email research: Targeting the enterprise. Human-Computer Interaction, 20 (1/2), 139-162. Whittaker, S. (2005). Supporting collaborative task management in email. Human-Computer Interaction, 20 (1/2), 49-88.
Balancing proximity & distance • Contemporary conditions include fragmentation, diminished attention, interruptability, multitasking, dual processing, polychronicity, information overload, pseudo-attention deficit disorder (Lohr, 2007) • “Employees are said to spend about 50 to 90 minutes a day managing email” (Van Waes, 2003, p. 279). • How do I balance work with personal time, research, instruction, and extension, access with protected time, community interests with individual priorities, service goals with self? Adopted from: Brown, J. S., & Duguid, P. (2000). The social life of information. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School P. Lohr, S. (2007). Is information overload a $650 billion drag on the economy? New York Times, December 20. Available online: http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/12/20/is-information -overload-a-650-billion-drag-on-the-economy/?scp=1andsq=information+overload Van Waes, L. (2003). Use and misuse of email. Document Design, 4 (3), 279-280.
Characterizing your e-mail use • What percentage of messages do you wish you had never seen? (MacKay, 1989, p. 396) • Do you keep reminders? • Do you keep an electronic or hardcopy calendar? • Do you keep a separate to-do list(s)? • Can you identify messages related to most important work tasks? (Whittaker, 2005). • How manymessages did you send today? • How many messages did you receive today? • Is this a typical day? • How many mail folders do you have? • How many messages are in your inbox? • Is this typical? • How many distribution lists do you subscribe to? • How often do you read your email? • Do you read all of your email? Adopted from: MacKay, W. E. (1989). Diversity in the use of electronic mail: A preliminary inquiry. ACM Transactions on Office Information Systems, 6 (4), 380-397. Whittaker, S. (2005). Supporting collaborative task management in email. Human-Computer Interaction, 20 (1/2), 49-88.
Making email your refrigerator Myrefrigerator notes don’t: • Require electricity, textual literacy, computer knowledge • Allow strangers and spammers to post messages • Invite hasty responses, accidental postings, flames • Make co-authoring a note difficult • Organize themselves chronologically • Hide the contents of new notes • Isolate communication exchange and incidental viewing • Last forever and get re-circulated out of context. Adopted from: PEW Internet & American Project. (2005). Online Activities and Internet: The mainstreaming of online life. Available online: http://www.pewinternet.org
Anticipating the email future Sample analysis of e-mail threads (p. 111): Task view inbox as calendar (p. 551): Visualization role-manager interface (HCIL): Adopted from: Bellotti, V., Ducheneaut, N., Howard, M., Smith, I., & Grinter, R. E. (2005). Quality versus quantity: Email-centric task management and its relation with overload. Human-Computer Interaction, 20 (1/2), 89-138. Human-Computer Interaction Lab, University of Maryland. Available online: http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/pubs/screenshots/Role-manager.shtmlGwizdka, J. (2002). Reinventing the inbox — Supporting the management of pending tasks in e-mail. Proceedings of CHI 2002 Conference, Minneapolis, MN, 550-551.
Understanding the limitations of email Problems: • Prioritizing intentions • Expressiveness of technologies • Explicit and implicit information • Event series • Typographic • Not face-to-face communication • Reminders of appointments and to-dos • Other time-based information • Group uses • A record of past activities • Portability • Ready accessibility • Visual salience in the work setting • Fluidity of visual structure • Local versus global view • Scarring • “E-mail is an evolvingsociotechnical phenomenon” (Ducheneaut & Watts, 2005, p. 12) Adopted from: Blandford, A. E., & Green, T. R. G. (2001). Group and individual time management tools: What you get is not what you need. Personal and Ubiquitous Computing, 5 (4), 213-230. Ducheneaut, N., & Watts, L. A. (2005). In search of coherence: A review of email research. Human-Computer Interaction, 20 (1/2), 11-48.
Working with email strategically • Minimize copying (consider audience, purpose, goals) • Organize according to priorities: from direct report, messages to you, to you and others, and copied to you • Streamline workflow. • Identify essential information • Produce accurate, brief, clear messages • Consider alternative media • Keep relevant content at hand • Preserve the ongoing work-state of incomplete activities • Save content that might be needed again in the future • Find things in the overwhelming and generally growing mass of content • Prioritize the “must-do’s” against the “would-be-nice-to-do’s” • Get rid of irrelevant content (Bellotti, et al. (2005, p. 101). Adopted from: Bellotti, V., Ducheneaut, N., Howard, M., Smith, I., & Grinter, R. E. (2005). Quality versus quantity: Email-centric task management and its relation with overload. Human-Computer Interaction, 20 (1/2), 89-138.
Employing simple email tactics • Regularly scanning the inbox; often scrolling up and down • Turning off ping; avoiding dependence on constant email updates • Learning keystroke shortcuts and exploring your email application • Sorting, by sender, flags, other prioritizing systems, to find items more easily than in the default time-and-date-based view • Deleting items to clean-out irrelevant, distracting content in the inbox • Storing currently relevant items in task application • Marking email messages as unread (or critical or important, etc.) • Storing items in appropriately labeled email folders and subfolders to be worked on together in the future • Archiving messages in email folders for reference • Inspecting or searching in folders in email and using other technical or nontechnical methods of keeping work prioritized • Making a calendar event to remind oneself to do something (Bellotti, et al., 2005, p. 102). Adopted from: Bellotti, V., Ducheneaut, N., Howard, M., Smith, I., & Grinter, R. E. (2005). Quality versus quantity: Email-centric task management and its relation with overload. Human-Computer Interaction, 20 (1/2), 89-138.
Remembering netoric, not netiquette • Remember the human, that is, your audience, their time constraints, work patterns, communication styles, organizational habits • Set high-level priorities for your work and personal life • Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life • Know where you are in cyberspace and for how long and what purposes • Respect other people’s time and bandwidth • Make yourself look good online • Share expert knowledge • Help keep flame wars under control (reflect) • Respect other people’s privacy • Don’t abuse your power • Be forgiving of other people’s mistakes • “The digital medium is not a neutral conduit any more than print was…. The rhetoric of digital expressionis already in use across academic life, at least in embryo, and its implications are clear enough and profound” (pp. 175-176) Adopted from: Albion.com, & Ross, S. T. (2004). Netiquette. Available online: http://www.albion.com/netiquette/book/index.html Lanham, R. A. (2002). The audit of virtuality: Universities in the attention economy. In S. Brint (Ed.), The future of the city of intellect: The changing American university (pp. 159-180). Stanford, CA: Stanford UP.
Internalizing netoric • “The proportion of us who say we ‘always feel rushed’ jumped by more than half between the mid-1960s and the mid-1990s” (Putnam, 2000, p. 189) • Knowledge work is creative, entrepreneurial, holistic, multidisciplinary, global, interpersonal, relational, self-directed, and flexible (Felder, 2006, p. 96) Adopted from: Felder, R. M. (2006). A whole new mind for a flat world. Chemical Engineering Education, 40(2), 96–97. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.