“Two curses have the supervisors: emails and people. The first one is solvable in polynomial time; whereas the second is NP-Complete.” ― Me

Introduction

You cannot be a good researchers without being a good communicator. If you are good enough at both, they you may qualify for becoming a supervisor. Being a good academic supervisor is a matter of practice, discipline, and the development of leading skills.

Handling tons of emails is the everyday bread and butter for those who have reached this level of success (i.e., supervising other people). In this post, I’ll illustrate how using a template based approach to easing email management can boost productivity and improve the quality of this communication channel.

Templates

Asking initial questions

Hi XXX,

Nice to meet you.
As a starting point for our conversation, I would like to know more about you.
* What's your best research writing achievement (report, dissertation, paper)? (please send it to me)
* What's your best programming achievement (explain the domain, programming language, software stack, role in the team)?
* What accomplishments are you most proud of?
* What's your biggest failure?

Best regards, XXX

Assigning a technical task Hi XXX,

Now I'd like to give you a technical task.

Your task is XXX.

The task is deliberately very open because this is how research works. In case of problems (and there will be some), don't hesitate to make simplifying assumptions in order to achieve something meaningful.

Then, I ask you to write a short document explaining the outcome of this task and your reflection on it. If you're not successful, you can reflect about the main difficulties you faced.

When could you send me this document?

Best,
XXX
Asking review and feedback

Hi XXX,

I hope your review to be almost-comically brutal.
Best regards, XXX