Email, Productivity, And How You Feel

Dealing with an endless stream of emails is challenge in any office environment – even just socially it can be rather taxing. The solution to email always seems to be just around the corner with a new startup from Silicon Valley appearing every year to “save” us from email. Here’s an idea it’s not that the problem is email itself rather it’s how we think about email.

Be free from the chains of email oppression by approaching email as something actionable rather than something to be organized. It’ll make you feel better rather than feeling pushed around by other people’s desires via email.

And that is the one way that email, in the sense of the tools and programs we use to process it, is at fault: technology has made it easier and easier to ask people to do more and more things, without giving us better tools or training to deal with the increasingly huge array of demands on our time. It’s easier than ever to say “hey could you do this for me” and harder than ever to just say “no, too busy”.

Decide you are not going to do those tasks, and simply delete them. Sometimes, a task’s entire life-cycle is to be created from an email, exist for ten minutes, and then have you come back to look at it and then delete it. This might feel pointless, but in going through that process, you are learning something extremely valuable: you are learning what sorts of things are not actually important enough to do you do.

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A Better Approach Than Zero Tolerance in Schools

A school in Walla Walla was essentially a dumping ground for all the students deemed to have behavioural problems and their explosion rate was through the roof. This all changed when a principal ditched the atrocious zero tolerance policy that the school was using (many schools in North America punish and demean students this way).

The principal found that better communication between the school administration, teachers, and students was key to solving a lot of the issues that led students to be expelled. This new approach cut the expulsion rate by quite a bit and improved the overall learning being done inside the school.

2009-2010 (Before new approach)
* 798 suspensions (days students were out of school)
* 50 expulsions
* 600 written referrals

2010-2011 (After new approach)
* 135 suspensions (days students were out of school)
* 30 expulsions
* 320 written referrals

…These suspensions don’t work for schools. Get rid of the “bad” students, and the “good” students can learn, get high scores, live good lives. That’s the myth. The reality? It’s just the opposite. Says the NEPC report: “…research on the frequent use of school suspension has indicated that, after race and poverty are controlled for, higher rates of out-of-school suspension correlate with lower achievement scores.”

There are just two simple rules, says Turner.

Rule No. 1: Take nothing a raging kid says personally. Really. Act like a duck: let the words roll off your back like drops of water.

Rule No. 2: Don’t mirror the kid’s behavior. Take a deep breath. Wait for the storm to pass, and then ask something along the lines of: “Are you okay? Did something happen to you that’s bothering you? Do you want to talk about it?”

It’s not that a kid gets off the hook for bad behavior. “There have to be consequences,” explains Turner. Replace punishment, which doesn’t work, with a system to give kids tools so that they can learn how to recognize their reaction to stress and to control it. “We need to teach the kids how to do something differently if we want to see a different response.”

Read more here.

Talking About Cities With People Who Don’t Live in One

When it comes to talking about the divide between urban and non-urban living there’s more differences than just who lives in a more sustainable community. People living in non-urban areas just don’t understand the positive urban living that is being espoused, and in fact, can take insult to how pro-urban thinkers (like me) talk about cities versus sub-urban living.

Marohn says he has realized over the past decade that he and the New Urbanists are actually often talking about the same thing. The urban experience and the small-town experience have more in common than people think. And they’ve both been distorted by the suburban experiment. The picture looks different. In cities, it looks like an army of surface parking lots has devoured our downtowns. Small towns have also been hallowed out at the core and nipped at their edges by encroaching subdivisions.

But the effect is the same, Marohn says: an erosion of civic space, which has led to an erosion of the financial viability of communities. And this is the language he uses to talk about planning – the language of economics, of debt and prosperity and gas prices.

Sure, economic arguments are often environmental ones, too (saving on gas also saves the environment!). But Marohn only ever mentions this under his breath, like, “oh, by the way, reinvesting in our existing infrastructure is good for the environment, too.” He says he sometimes ticks off environmentalists by acknowledging their worldview as an afterthought instead of up front.

Read more here.

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