Getting Your Inbox to Zero (or Almost Zero): Yes You Can!

Spoiler alert: there is almost no possibility of anyone keeping an inbox at absolute zero for an extended period of time.

However, keeping your inbox neat and devoid of clutter is well withing your sights. Recently, I read a Chronicle article (shocking, I know) about the idealistic notion of keeping a zero-base inbox, and while I found valid points, I think that having a nearly zero inbox is absolutely attainable.

For those of you who haven’t met me personally, you may not know that I am a “judging” type – I constantly feel the need to keep order in all aspects of my life. And since I work in student affairs (and am a graduate student… and a Millennial) email strongly influences my everyday experience. So, what do insanely organized, Millennial student affairs grads do to their inbox? They wipe it clean. Every. Day.

Now, clearly I realize that many of you do not fall under those categories, but there are a few tips I would like to share for those of you, “who comfortably live with an inbox hundreds-of-messages deep, [and] who often don’t answer their messages,” (at least, that’s how Brett Foster of Wheaton College puts it).

1. Start organized. Stay organized.

  • Create folders for each of your areas or projects. You can even go as far as creating sub folders for those emails that are less important to remember or reference. Think of it in terms of organizing your book shelves or dresser drawers – you feel more relaxed when everything is in it’s place right? It’s the same thing with your inbox.

2. Take time each day to devote to emails.

  • I know we’re all incredibly busy individuals and work-life balance can be a precarious line we walk, but taking a set amount of time each day to only answer emails is quite helpful. For example, I get into work at 8:30 AM each morning. From 8:30 – 9:00 AM I clean out my inbox; anything information that I can scan and archive I get out of the way first. Once I’m through with that, I prioritize the rest and move from there. Maybe 8:30 AM isn’t good for you, but I bet you’ve got 30 minutes in your day somewhere that you spare.

3. Read. Respond. Archive.

  • Read it, respond to it, and get rid of it. If you already dealt with whatever issue the message presented, there is no reason for it to sit in your inbox. Clutter begets clutter. Cleanliness begets cleanliness.

4. Abide by the 48 hour rule.

  • Unless you’re on vacation, at a conference, or sick at home, you should be answering your emails in a timely fashion. If it truly warrants a response, that response should be drafted and sent within two days of the arrival date.

5. At the end of the day, keep no more than five emails awaiting reply or action.

  • Say what?! Yea. I said it. No more than five emails. It may seem like a lot, and I know there will be days where that is near impossible, but if you keep it clean, the emails won’t accumulate over time and turn into a heaping mound of agony.

Sure, there are exceptions to these rules. And maybe not everyone can function with such a structure. But for those of you who want to change, try it out. I bet you’ll find a huge weight lifted from your shoulders.

Getting Your Inbox to Zero (or Almost Zero): Yes You Can!

Linkage Love: Design, Marketing, & Connection

by Jess Faulk

When I write a linkage love blog I usually like to connect it to a theme.  This is the same as when you give a present; all blue, all relaxation items, all baseball related, etc.  It gives a reader a sense of connectedness with what you are talking about.  This week, my theme is merely ‘my life.’  The only connecting thread is what I am experiencing in my world, what I am learning, and what I want to share with you.

As many folks in my life know, I have always been attracted to beautiful design.  For years I have collected books, magazine clippings, and website links to pages with fabulous design layouts.  I’ve never thought of it as much more than a hobby, something I do in my “spare” time, that also comes in handy in my ResLife day job.  But now, since being accepted into Simmons College Master of Communication Management program, I can blend the practical knowledge of this program with my passion for learning. I am on cloud 9, finally learning the technical side of design in my visual communication class.

Below are several links inspired by this class.  I hope to share much more of what I learn throughout the semester with the SAWTT community, as I believe many of you, whether design fans or not, will find the lessons I am learning as helpful in your day job as I am in mine.

Adobe Kuler ImageAdobe® Kuler®

The web-hosted application for generating color themes that can inspire any project

Tonight in class, my professor Jane Hayward showed us this website that helps you pick out matching colors for your project.  Sure, many of us will just stick with the template provided for us by Microsoft or Apple, or even pick out colors at random hoping they look good, but this website will help you create those color palates that really make your design pop.  The best part of this site is its “create” feature, which allows you to upload a photo and pull out specific colors from that photo.  This is especially helpful if you are planning a poster or a creating an infographic around a large image.

FutureM Boston & The 10 rules of Modern Marketing: Creating “Customer Love” in the Digital Age

Future-MToday I received an email from The Massachusetts Innovation & Technology Exchange (MITX) about an upcoming event in Boston, the FutureM conference, bringing “together marketing and technology innovators to contemplate and celebrate the future of Marketing.”  The conference will integrate debates, demos, hackathons, meet-ups, presentations, unconferences, and every other sort of learning style.  The idea of stepping outside of student affairs and learning something new that I can bring back into the field is exciting for me.  It helps me break out of one way of thinking, gets me excited about innovation, and helps me network with professionals outside of the student affairs field.  The article I linked to above is one of the conference advertising pieces that shares a perspective on using modern marketing to create customer connection.  I invite you to read it and think of what you are doing to create connection between your office and the students you serve.  Are you creating “Customer Love”? Note: FutureM is FREE for students!  Share the link if you work in the Boston area, or want to visit for the week!

Campus to Community: A project of Socializing for Justice (

SOJUST.ORGGetting out of my Student Affairs bubble is a huge value of mine.  Not only because it expands my knowledge base, and gives me fresh new ideas, but it also gives me perspective on the work that I do.  There are wonderful, caring, interesting activists out in the non-university world who are doing the work that we do with students on a much larger scale – like the entire city of Boston.  Campus2Community is a project born out of Socializing for Justice ( as a retention initiative for engaged and motivated recent grads to find new communities, a way for faculty and staff at various universities to meet, and as an opportunity to create a web of connection for progressive faculty and staff in the Boston area.  While the organization is Boston specific, the idea can be replicated anywhere in the country.  Yes, it requires time and dedication to organize, but it can start simply as a happy hour at a bar or coffee shop.  Make it open and welcoming, give it room to grow into whatever its regulars want to make it, and do it regularly.  I hope some of you in the Boston area will join me at the next Campus2Community Happy Hour for Progressive Faculty, Staff and Grad Students on Wednesday, October 17th at Lir, or at one of SoJust’s upcoming skillshares or socials.

Linkage Love: Design, Marketing, & Connection

Best Practices/Making Life Easier: The Art of No

By Anitra Cottledge

At the beginning of the semester, Colleen wrote a great post about best practices in technology that can help make your life easier. As we turn the corner into the thick of the semester, those tips continue to come in handy. I have another best practice that’s been on my mind a lot: the art of saying no.

I know that for a lot of us in student affairs, September and October are incredibly busy months. They feel like, as one of the student interns in my office said, they’ve been set to a soundtrack of “Flight of the Bumblebee.”

There are a lot of things that we can’t say no to: certain meetings, committees, events, etc. In fact, I would venture to say there are several parts of all of our jobs that we love saying “Yes!” to. September isn’t quite over, and I’ve had tons of moments that drive home why the work we do is important and impactful and joyful.

Recently, during a leadership retreat, I shared some snippets from an essay by Haitian-American author Edwidge Danticat. In the essay, “I Pass On,” Danticat talks about how having passions is as much about letting go of some things as it is embracing others:

“I have had to sacrifice many destructive passions to make room for other positive and lasting ones. Indeed, when I unscramble the word Pass-I-On, I find, among other phrases, ‘I pass on.’ Thus my passions have as much to do with the things I let go as well as those I maintain in my life…I pass on crippling perfectionism and simply try to do the best I can in every situation. I pass on procrastination and try to accomplish my tasks, plain and difficult ones alike, one step at a time. I pass on parties and social calls and nights out in order to write in solitude, because I find myself more at ease in imaginary landscapes. I pass on saying things I don’t mean, so at least I can trust my own voice.”

I love this article, because it really makes me think about how saying no can be a help, and not a hindrance. Sometimes we have to say no to taking on an extra commitment, either in service to our own capacity and energy (or lack thereof), but also to leave room for others to take on things. To do a hat tip to Colleen’s post that I mentioned earlier, technology can help you do this, e.g., using your calendar to block off time for you to prep and focus, as opposed to leaving it open for others to schedule meetings.

What are some ways that you say no in your life?

Best Practices/Making Life Easier: The Art of No

A Little Love for Gen X

By Anitra Cottledge

I’m fascinated by conversations about generations, and how generational differences shake up and enrich the classroom, the community, the workplace and even families. In my office, we have four generations represented: Baby Boomer, Generation X, Generation Y (aka Millennials) and Generation Z. We incorporate a training about communication across generations as part of our yearly staff orientation (although I must say, I haven’t done nearly enough research into Gen Z).

I don’t think the “generations” frame is perfect, by any means. For instance, what do these generational experiences look like when viewed through lenses of race and socioeconomic background? But it can be a useful discussion starter and an entry point to understanding of how some events and moments that collectively shape large groups of people.

Here’s the thing: I am the only member of Generation X in my office. And I notice that, in some of the writing I read, Generation X is totally omitted: “Generational divides in the workplace are more evident than ever as Gen Y and baby boomers find themselves working together in a variety of new arrangements.” Hello? What happened to Generation X? Contrary to the label “slacker,” we do actually exist in the workplace.

A few months ago, a Gizmodo piece entitled, “Generation X Is Sick of Your B.S.” (NSFW) made its way to my inbox, and I totally cracked up: “This is a message from Internet, the generation that became the voice that set the tone for everything you love about the Net. And it’s pissed.” I immediately sent this to all of my Generation X friends and colleagues, and I think, for a second, there was a virtual head-nod going on en masse across the country.

I know it’s become a sort of massive inside joke to pick on Millennials in a very “these kids today” kind of way or to set up a competition between Gen X vs. Gen Y, but I’m not interested in that. The only part I want to address is the the notion that somehow being technologically savvy originated with Gen Y and beyond. Yes, I saw The Social Network, and make use of Facebook on a daily basis, but there’s a whole lot of Gen X’ers whose inventions and technology companies made things like Facebook a possibility in the first place. A few examples: Google, Yahoo!, Wikipedia, Blogger, etc.

In the end, each generation has its strengths, and this was my opportunity to give a little love to my own beloved Gen X, and our contribution to the world of technology.

A few resources about Generation X:

A Little Love for Gen X

Merging homes with technology

By Jess Faulk

My life has been a whirlwind in the last few months.  As usual, I survived 4 weeks res staff training, opening of the Residence Halls, and the initial flurry of roommate conflicts.  Somehow in all of this, I have managed to help my partner, @robbiesamuels manage a VERY coordinated move in to my apartment. The fun part of it is how much we are using technology to help us get through it all.

Google Docs: “De-Duping”

When we first made the decision to move in with each other, we knew there would be a process of “de-duping.”  We don’t need two of everything and we want to make sure to keep the best of what the two of us have.  To avoid moving over everything and comparing it side by side, we created a google doc with areas for each type of household items.  Cleaning out the kitchen became super easy because we had a quick reference guide for everything we need.  It also happens to be a great way to track your household items in the cloud for insurance purposes!

Google Docs: “Tag Sale!”

Inevitably after you figure out what will fit and what won’t in your new place you need to go through the process of selling or donating all of the extras.  Since my partner’s birthday was coming up, we decided to do the only logical thing – make it a giant birthday/tag sale for all of our friends!

We wanted everyone to know ahead of time exactly what was available for purchase so we created a google doc with columns for item name, original price, selling price, a picture of the item, a link to a similar item online (for reviews/comparison), and columns for tracking who purchased it and whether they paid.

The doc worked brilliantly.  All of our friends were able to view the items before they came, make claims on the items they really wanted before the party, and feel good about their purchases because they knew they were at a fair price.  At some points during the week we saw as many as 6-8 people looking at the document at one time!


Promotion of your sale is key.  Once we posted the tag sale on the evite all of our close friends knew it was happening, but not the wider circle of friends and co-workers in our lives.  Promotion of the Tag Sale (and a link to the google doc: allowed us to spread the word even farther.  Many of the items purchased pre-party turned out to be by folks that wouldn’t have even known about the sale if they didn’t see it through our social media posts.


At the very end, we have turned to Craigslist for our sales.  Anything not sold at the party has gotten the traditional “Moving sale!” post to reach a wider audience in the Boston area.  The best thing about this type of posting is that the craigslist users get access to our comparison Google document just like everyone else.  There is one catch to be aware of on craigslist – you aren’t allow to post links.  In order to get around this we linked the google doc via HTML code which hides the long google name, but allows you to click on the link (example below).

<b>Link to all items for sale (with pictures) and links to similar items:</b>
<a href=”″>tag sale link</a>

Link to all items for sale (with pictures) and links to similar items:
tag sale link

Technology has certainly made this move a lot easier and is allowing us to focus on the stuff that matters most (like how to relinquish a whole closet of clothes to make space for your partner). Hopefully our story and solutions will help you in your next move, be it off or on campus!


Merging homes with technology

Blog Prompt – How does marketing affect women in technology?

by Colleen Riggle

Women have been associated with shopping which dates well back to the concept.  I grew up a shopper, red tags, clearance and “black friday” are all part of who I am an individual, but I know not all woman like to shop.  So when it comes to marketing and the affects of women in technology it’s a mixed bag.  There was a quote I once read recently that summed up people’s assumptions of women in a technology.  It went something like this:

“Women like the idea of technology and men like to know how to build the technology. It doesn’t mean you get rid of women in engineering but instead find things women are interested in”

There are several things wrong with the quote above, as are with assuming all women love to shop.  I recently read an article about the insights of marketing to women and while there are still a growing number of women in the technological field, we are still out numbered by the men who hold those roles.

“It’s much easier to market a product your audience wants. And hearing the female voice early rather than later could mean a significant difference in your bottom line.”


“Although 3 of the 10 best-paying jobs for women are in the tech sector, 56% of women who enter the field of technology, leave for other careers.”

Now, let me ask you again, how does marketing affect women in technology?  It would appear that we are still functioning under the assumption that most men are behind the marketing to women.   Companies that begin to connect the dots would be wise to make a concerted effort to both solicit and retain women in the tech arena.

Enough said!

Blog Prompt – How does marketing affect women in technology?

Highlight A Woman: Jenna Magnuski

by Lauren Creamer

Some of you reading this may already know Jenna, as she is an active member of the student affairs women in technology community – but for those of you who don’t, let me shed some light on the fantastic qualities she brings to the party (and why I look up to her).

From a very young age, Jenna was immersed in technology. Her parents encouraged her to use the computer at home, sparking her fascination. Later in life Jenna went on the receive her undergraduate education at Framingham State in Massachusetts and chose to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. Studying Student Affairs in Higher Education, Jenna had the opportunity to work at Carnegie Mellon. Through her experiences at these various universities, Jenna was able to expand her interests and indulge her passion for technology use in student affairs.

Now, Jenna and I work together at Northeastern University in the Office of Housing and Residential Life. She is a Residence Director and I am a graduate student working with living learning communities. One of the main focuses of my work is developing a social media presence in each of the living learning communities. And one of my own, personal goals is to develop a strong social media presence in the student affairs community for myself.

Although she doesn’t know it (surprise Jenna!), I look up to her – to me, Jenna is an extraordinary role model. In the past 16 months that I have worked for Northeastern (NU), I have always looked to her for what I should be doing next. Jenna is always ahead of the curve – I want to read the news in an simple format? There is a app for that (Pulse). I want people to view my schedule easily? There is a website that will keep you organized ( I’m having trouble deciding how to make my mark in the student affairs community? She’ll meet me for coffee to talk about it. And the work that she does for NU and the student affairs community; well, that just speaks for itself.

As I stated earlier, I work specifically with the development and assessment of social media in living learning communities (LLCs) and academic initiatives within NU ResLife. Last year, I created and assessed (throughout the year) 19 Facebook pages for all of the first year LLCs. The time I sent monitoring the pages basically involved me tracking the progress RDs and their staffs were making with posts and student interaction. Some of the pages were great, some did not succeed. There were, however, a select few that were extraordinary. Jenna’s page was one of them. Her RAs were posting on the pages every week and her residents were interacting (something we had difficulty with due to launch issues)! And not only did she have success with Facebook, she had success with Twitter as well (something she did on her own for her community).

Jenna also works closely with the NEACUHO Technology Committee. This past annual conference (held at NU), Jenna was in charge of the official NEACUHO 2012 Twitter handle. As it happens, she had to leave the conference early and entrusted the job to me (ahh!). That was quite exciting, for me anyway.

These things may seem simple or trivial to you, but to a student affairs grad starting out in her first professional role, seeing Jenna at work is uplifting. I don’t need to tell you that being a grad student is incredibly difficult work. And I don’t need to give examples of what gets any of us through our assistantships. But I will say that Jenna has given me a glimpse at the light at the end of the tunnel. If I could be half as excited and passionate as she is about working with technology, I know I will do great things when I graduate.

Oh, and did I mention she’s a mom too now? Everyone say hi to little Edmund!

Thank you Jenna, for being a great role model and just being plain awesome.

Highlight A Woman: Jenna Magnuski