Careers Resources

Dealing with Your Inbox

Jan 18, 2024

Happy New Year, colleagues!

This time of year, email traffic ramps up quickly. Email is tricky for scholars. You could easily spend all your time on email. There’s professional pressure to be “a good colleague.” This is usually coded language for: be responsive to emails and follow-through on your word.

But if you focus all your energy on email, you’re not writing or developing new work or grants. That’s treacherous. As the saying goes, “No one gets tenure for being good at email.”

How do you balance being responsive to, but not consumed, by emails?

Try stacking your emails. I first read about stacking on Loleen Berdahl’s X/Twitter. Stacking is a strategy that’s helped me go from spending hours on email to just spending short bursts of time on it. I no longer feel overwhelmed by email. I hit inbox zero most days.

If you’re already convinced you’d like to try stacking, here’s free short lessons from Double Gemini on how to stack your email. But in case you’d like to hear more about what stacking is, the main ideas are that you:

  • Triage your email. Most people treat all emails as equally important. They’re not. Use your inbox time to triage emails into priority bins.
  • Stop wasting time filing emails. Just archive them. You probably rarely go into the beautiful specific folders you’ve created. Maybe you have one or two folders you open often. Those can be your priority bins.
  • Block out calendar time for email. Always being “on” for email makes it an endless hamster wheel.

Watch the lessons to learn how to implement these ideas. Let me know if you try it! I hope it helps you as much as it has me.

Tying back to the purpose of this newsletter, emails are important in grant writing. Having an inbox strategy frees up writing time, and it also makes it possible to respond to critical emails. Any time a program officer emails you, treat it as critical. Their emails may mean: they’re considering you for funding, there’s a problem with your grant that hopefully you can fix, or maybe they’re looking for grant reviewers. I’ve had all of these scenarios happen to me recently. Whatever the reason, it’s important to respond quickly and professionally to any program officer email.

That’s all for today. If you know someone who might like stacking, would you mind forwarding today’s newsletter to them? Thanks for reading and believing that scholars deserve support for incredible ideas.


Stay in touch: The Newsletter, Bluesky, TikTok, and The Grant Writing Guide book.

P.S. In case inbox zero sounds like a fantasy, here’s mine. My priority folders are circled so you can see how I organize my inbox.