This post is brought to you by the number 549 and the letter Q

This was the number facing me as I opened my email this morning: 549.

549 apparently unread emails.

This was depressing. What a way to start the year! Already significantly behind!

However I knew – in part at least – why the number had crept up to such heights. What I didn’t know was how to start checking these mails and ensure that I had responded to or acknowledged them.

So I started by making archive subfolders within my O365 inbox using <session start year> – <term number> as a prefix. For example:

  • 2020-1 Archive
  • 2020-2 Archive

Once I’d moved the mails into their appropriate term the figure looked not only much more manageable but highlighted the period where I’d let my housekeeping slip: January to April 2020.

The majority of unread emails in this period related to:

  • Room booking alerts
  • Google Classroom submissions
  • Sales pitches

I checked the shortcuts available in O365 Outlook. Q marks an email as read. I used this to quickly filter through the term’s unread mails.

It took me a little time to action these changes today but I believe that this grouping of email by term has positive mental health benefits. Anna Beech writes in Stylist about “email fatigue”. Having fewer channels helps, so I’m glad I forwarded notifications from my Glow mail into my work inbox.

Takeaways from this activity:

  1. Archiving previous term emails into an appropriate folder allows quick identification of mails you missed in those few months, making the process of catch up more manageable.
  2. The Q shortcut key speeds up the catch up process. I’ll use this in the next term as acknowledgement emails appear and see if this impacts on perceived overload.
  3. Fewer applications or platforms is key in reducing stress. Work communication should be in one place.

Follow ups:

  1. Can filtering of Google Classroom notifications using rules can reduce unread emails further?
  2. How can this process have a positive impact on student organisation skills?
  3. Can O365 Outlook display the number of flagged mails in a similar way to unread mails?
  4. How can the Microsoft To-Do app help with prioritising of actions through flagging emails?


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