Monday, January 16, 2012

Dealing with email: the subject line

I stumbled on articles about how people manage email.

-"Revisiting Whittaker and Sidney's "email overload" ten years later."
-"Everything through email"
-"Am I wasting my time organizing email? A study of email refinding."

I saw one piece of advice that would make our lives easier: to put the subject line to good use.

That made me wonder what subject line I had chosen. Here is a representative sample of my recently composed work-related emails:
- my attempt at a high-level description of Elkin's algorithm
- The problem with your proof
- notes on dp
- we can chat on google gmail?
- back
- Back at Brown
- (no subject)
- dynamic networks reference (a model)
- sujet cours College de France? [English: topic course at College de France?]
- your student
- on another topic
- ton avis [English: your advice]
- resume [English: summary]
Before I looked, I was ready to give myself a pat in the back for the care with which I compose my subject lines. Now I realize that actually, my subject lines are only well-done when I am careful: for every message with a carefully chosen subject line, it turns out that I write several that are completely uninformative. I mean, come on: "on another topic": what kind of a subject is that?? Even "notes on dp" is highly context-dependent and pretty non-descriptive of my work.

This suggests a late new year's resolution: when I take the time to compose an email, I should take a little bit of extra time to compose the subject line, keeping in mind that it may get archived and might need to be retrieved in several months.

1 comment:

  1. A primary source of mass confusion is our e-mail in-boxes. While I've earlier mentioned a few strategies for interacting with e-mail excess.


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