Class 18: Email Management

Methodology of Scientific Research

Andrés Aravena, PhD

May 2, 2024

Handling inbox

  • Minimize the number of inboxes
  • Schedule time to process stuff
  • Decide if it is “actionable”
  • 2-minute rule: solve quick things immediately
  • Store, delegate, delay, delete
  • Archive reference material
    • Use tags to organize for retrieval

Sending Email

(also applies to WhatsApp, Slack, etc.)

Essential parts

An email should provide just enough information to answer these five questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you want?
  • Why are you asking me?
  • Why should I do what you’re asking?
  • What is the next step?”

Guy Kawasaki, cited in Vozza, Stephanie. 2013. ‘Productivity Lifesaver: The 5-Sentence Email’. Entrepreneur. (October 3, 2023).

Consider time zones

If you collaborate with people abroad, remember that your 10am may not be their 10am

Sometimes your “tomorrow” is not their “tomorrow”

Be explicit on the weekday, the date and the time

Use GMT/UTC based timezones.
Other abbreviations are ambiguous

  • AMT is Armenia Time or Amazon Time

Be Explicit

Not too long

“Long emails are either unread or, if they are read, they are unanswered … Right now I have 600 read but unanswered emails in my inbox.”

Guy Kawasaki, cited by Stephanie Vozza in
‘Productivity Lifesaver: The 5-Sentence Email’

Entrepreneur website. (October 3, 2023).

Five sentences

“A Disciplined Way To Deal With Email”

E-mail takes too long to respond to, resulting in continuous inbox overflow for those who receive a lot of it.

Treat all email responses like SMS text messages, using a set number of letters per response. Since it’s too hard to count letters, we count sentences instead.

Implementing “five sentences”

Write this as your signature

Q: Why is this email five sentences or less?

See also

Make it easy to notice

When someone gets many emails,

they decide which ones to read based on:

  • Who sent it
  • What is it about

That is, based on your name and the subject

Does this work?

Always write a Subject

The Subject should say why to read the message

  • Good: short and to the point

    “Want to introduce my colleague. Coffee Tuesday or Wednesday?”

  • Bad examples:

    “(No subject)”, “message”, “hello”

You can even say everything in the subject

“We wait for you at classroom 1 [EOM]”

Here “[EOM]” means “[End Of Message]”

This shows that theres is nothing more to say

All the message is in the subject

No need to open the email

What about this one?

Have I seen this person before?

Choose well your picture

Most people are much better at recognizing faces than names

Some email platforms allow you to show your picture

(also applies to WhatsApp and similar apps)

Your picture should show your face clearly

And about this one?

Always include your full name

Don’t make people guess.
Write your name the way you want to be called

Bad if too short or too long:

  • Pablo
  • Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso

Good if is the name you like people to call you

  • Pablo Picasso

“Pablo Picasso.” (2023). In Wikipedia.

Write it backwards

It is easy to press SEND before attaching a file
or before writing the subject

A good way of never forget them is to

  1. Attach any attached file
  2. Write the text explaining about the attached file
  3. Write a one-phrase summary as subject
  4. Write the recipient’s email address
  5. Press SEND

You cannot press SEND until you write the recipient’s email

Scheduled send

Sometimes it is better to send a message late

For instance, on a Monday morning instead of during the weekend

In that case use the menu in the “send” button and chose a time to send

Undo send

In real life there is no UNDO

Gmail trick is to wait a few seconds after we press “send” and actually sending the message

My advice: always go yavaş yavaş

If you run, you make more mistakes and take more time


Email was designed for text

Plain text

It cannot handle “binary” data (non-text)

To attach a picture/document, it is encoded as text

This increases the file size by 33%

Use attachments only if necessary

Worst offenders: Word files

  • If it is short, copy-and-paste in the email body

  • If it is long, use instead a shared folder in the cloud

(more on that later)


Attach the document to leave an explicit record at a fixed date

(for example, students’ homework)

This way everybody can see the unmodified document

Notice that attachments could be modified after being sent


You can have one or more standard signatures

They are automatically written on every email

Keep them short and useful

Avoid pictures. You can include web links

Advanced options

Look at the options on the side of “send” button

  • Confidential mode

  • Request read receipt

Answering email

Understand citation of previos email

When you answer an email sent before, the old text is kept in the message and marked

Be sure to see it

Delete the irrelevant parts

You may answer each question in its context

Automatic archive of replies

If we are using the inbox zero strategy, we do not need to keep an answered message in the inbox

Instead, we can send and archive on one click

In some cases we send without archiving. Decide carefully

Mailing lists

Use cases

  • Sending email to many people at the same time

  • Fostering online conversations

  • Answering questions as a team

Google Groups

Go to

You can participate in several groups, and create new ones

You can invite people to the group


People can write using the web interface, or using email

The website can keep all messages

Posts can be made “as a person” or “as a group”


  • Group owners

  • Group managers

  • Group members

  • Anyone in the web

Case 1: Keeping people informed

Let’s say we are organizing a conference

  • Organizers are group managers

  • Participants are group members

  • Only managers can create new posts

    • Sender is the group
  • Replies (from participants to organizers) are sent to group managers

  • Old messages can be public

Case 2: Foster online discussion

  • Members can post at any time

  • Replies are sent to everybody

    • Replies can be moderated by the managers
  • Everybody uses their personal name

Case 3: Customer service

Collaborative inbox

  • Only organizers are members

  • Anybody on the internet can post

    • Via email or web
  • Messages are private, only for members

  • Replies go from members to the person who posted

    • Ideally under the organizer’s name
    • Take personal responsibility of what you say