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.

Is it Possible to Do More Project Management with Less?

I don’t know about you, but recently I have heard the phrase “doing more with less” many, many times. It has come from technology managers in both the commercial sector and public sector.  Corporations and government organizations alike continue to reduce the size of their workforces while attempting to “get work done” (or sometimes more work done) in spite of hiring freezes.  Work as we know it, including project management, is undergoing profound change. With colleagues laid off and a wave of upcoming baby boomer retirements, what’s a professional project manager in a PMO to do?  Is it possible to do more with less in our field?

The initial knee jerk reaction, of course is to counter, “but I need more skilled project managers.”  I know that I have sure had my fill of people being assigned as “project managers” who are little more than team members who are now leads. But the reality is—at least for the present—corporation and agency leadership is not likely to give us the full component of project staff members that we think we need.

So, in a spirit of finding a silver lining in the project staffing cloud under which many of us are working, I have a few suggestions to help us survive doing more with less.

  1. Develop templates that even non-PMPs can use –
    We use templates all the time and many are available free from vendors.  A template done correctly can help codify the information you need and help manage the communication of project data.
  2. Create online forms that streamline common requests and approvals –
    If you are fortunate enough to have an online collaboration portal (Like SharePoint, eRoom, Google Docs – now Google Drive, BaseCamp, etc) then create a form that can be used to facilitate processes.  Since you don’t have time to chase around getting approvals, use the power of the computer to capture and route these types of processes.
  3. Define and automate workflows that help your team get work done –
    If you are even MORE fortunate to have a tool that does workflows (Like SharePoint, Clarity PPM, ProcessIT, etc) then you can create a workflow to manage the processes or take a form and send it through an approval process.
  4. Automate the most time consuming processes with a tool or template.  Things like status reporting, resource allocation, demand management, requests and approvals, or schedule updating. (Again the big tools are Project Server, Clarity, and many other online tools)

This is not an exhaustive list – but hopefully is a good starter for you.

When faced with challenges such as doing more with less, smart firms find ways to innovate through processes and technology.  What additional techniques is your organization using to maintain professional project management with fewer resources?

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