7 Tips to Manage your Email (and not let it manage you)!

If you are reading this post, then like me, you would love to have a good guide on how to effectively use EMAIL. Unfortunately I am not aware of a single guide for this!!  However, I thought I would share some best practices on how to use and not be used by email.  The key is don’t let email waste your time!  I sometimes forget this tip myself – so don’t fall into the traps that can be huge time wasters.  Here are seven tips for managing your email.

  1. Do not use email to discuss long winded or complex topics. Don’t do it! Use other means to communicate and dialog with others. Email is NOT a substitute for collaboration and complex interaction. Remember that many people use their phones or small screens to read email these days – who wants to scroll down 10 times just to get to the point?
  2. Send an email to the right people. Don’t let your staff or project team copy you on every single email and communication that happens on your project! You already get way too much email (I average about 150 emails a day myself) and being copied on every email is a waste of your time. So don’t let it happen to you and don’t do it to others. So often I hear the word “inclusive” used as a crutch for copying half of the project team on emails they don’t need or want to see.
  3. Turn OFF those alerts that say “You’ve got Mail!” You don’t need to know every time someone feels the need to copy you on an email. And others around you will find it distracting if not annoying to hear beeps, buzzes and cute sounds announcing that you have just received yet another email. Think of this as turning on the silent ringer for your phone.
  4. Quit using unclear subject lines. Email subject lines like “meeting”, “Question”, “Schedule” or worst of all “RE:   “. These vague subjects beg the recipient to open the email to see what in the world the email is about. And just try to search and find that email later with a subject like that! Be specific in your email subject line and let the reader know what the email if about or for.
  5. Do NOT send emails late at night or early in the morning. OK, I am probably bad at this myself – but we need to stop this practice. For one thing it sends a bad subliminal message to people. If you send email to your client at midnight, they think you are “on call” 24/7 or that you are understaffed. If you send emails at off hours to employees, it can send the message that you expect them to be “on call” 24/7. Is this the culture you want to have for your organization? Now, before you jump all over this one, I am not saying there aren’t times that you have to work late and send those late emails. Just don’t make a habit out of it!
  6. Write better emails. So how long do you think about your emails before you hit send? As Nelson Biagio pointed out in his Writing Better Emails post, people receive so much email that your business email must stand out from the junk. You should care about the style, tone, grammar, and action that your email contains. Always remember that email has a long life. A good tip on writing an email is to step back after you have written the email, read it as if it was being published in the local newspaper, and then hit send if you are comfortable with that thought.
  7. Organize your inbox. This is a key productivity concept for any program manager. If you have ever read a book on personal productivity you will know that keeping your incoming communications organized is essential to managing effectively and making good decisions. If you need ideas on how to keep your email organized read David Charron’s post where he points out many useful techniques on how to manage your mailbox. Basically you need to quit using your inbox as a file box and start using tags and folders to organize.

 

These tips are just a start on how to keep email from wasting your time. Hopefully this post helps you to get a handle on what can be the best or worst tool in your management toolkit.  Do you have any tips on managing email?  Leave a comment.

IPMA 2014 – Innovation through Dialog

While I have a lot of readers who are in Europe – thank you for reading! – I know that many of my readers are here in the USA and always looking for a good reason to get out of the country.  I also know that some of you are members of the International Project Management Association.  So if you are a Project Manager and need a great way to improve your skills while seeing a great city, you should be aware of the upcoming 28th IPMA World Congress which is being held from September 29th to October 1st in the City of Rotterdam, the Netherlands.  It is going to have a great set of speakers (12 keynoters and 120 Expert speakers) as well as a wonderful program.

This year’s theme is “Innovation through Dialog” and the conference will focus on sharing, networking and interacting.  If you are like me and have many years of managing people and projects, you are always looking for good places to share best practices and learn new tricks of the trade.  The sponsors include many familiar companies including Microsoft but there are other interesting companies like Schiphol Group who manages airports and Dirigentem who provide project management services out of the Netherlands.  And if you are looking for new tools to manage those Agile projects check out this Projectplace who is also a sponsor.

As far as the program, it is very full!  The tracks for the program have something for everyone – here is the preliminary list of session topic streams:

If you can spare the time and expense to get to the conference I think it is one of those great opportunities to learn and meet people that will influence the way you approach projects in the future.  Some of the speakers that will be exciting to hear are Dr. Dagmar Zuchi, Philippe Brun, Hans Bol, Peter Scheffel, and Maura Launchbury.  Check out their experience and see what they plan to share at the conference.

If you get to go, please leave your thoughts about the conference as a comment – or if you would like to write a guest post about the event – please contact me.

 

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