We’ve all felt it: that sinking feeling in the morning when you open your inbox to 200+ emails. Before you can even begin your tasks for the day, you need to sift through your inbox, trying to figure out what is important enough to read and respond to. One of two thing will likely happen: you’ll spend the whole morning reading and answering the majority of your emails, many of which were not necessary for you to read at all. Alternatively, you’ll breeze through your inbox looking for the threads that seem urgent, most likely skimming over important information directly relevant to you and your tasks for the day. Both result in inefficient work and wasted time.
Life is busy, and your time is valuable, especially when working on big projects with hard deadlines. For teams working on projects with lots of moving parts, frequent updates and numerous stakeholders involved, email-based project management is particularly impractical and often results in catastrophic missed communication, unclear objectives and an overload of information that can leave vital tasks overlooked. There has to be a better way!
Luckily, there are several tools you can use to streamline your processes and optimise your organisation. Here are a few pieces of advice for how to detox from email project management and start being more efficient.
Schedule a video chat, or meet in person
With the prevalence of Skype and Google Hangouts , there’s no reason why even remote teams can’t stay connected. Start your day with a standup, a daily meeting where everyone quickly announces yesterday’s achievements, their goals for the day, and potential roadblocks. This simple task takes only fifteen minutes and will help everyone stay on track and up to date. Then, if and when problems come up throughout the day, schedule a quick face-to-face call or meeting to sort out any issues that need resolving. Why spend hours sending passive aggressive or unclear emails back and forth when you could likely solve the problem together in five minutes?
As LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner writes , “Email can be a valuable productivity tool when used properly. It can also be equally destructive when it’s not.” Not only is it often quicker to hash things out in a brief meeting, it keeps the team feeling informed and up-to-date and avoids the confusion that can happen when people struggle to express themselves effectively through writing.
Start using a project management tool
Assana and Trello are free boards used to manage big projects. With multiple tabs to assign and monitor tasks, a comments section, uploading capabilities, tagging and subtask functions to name just a few, these project management tools not only give teams the ability to organize all their tasks in the order of importance, they offer the possibility to see the big picture of the project with all its moving parts. Also, these tools allow you to see when tasks are completed, so that everyone knows what has been done and what’s left to do. Assembla, a project management tool we use here at WAAT, gives an even more in-depth, comprehensive overview across all projects and partners, increasing our efficiency and accountability.
Use a chat tool to communicate transparently with your team
Free downloadable tools like Slack and Hipchat are a must for any team seeking to communicate quickly and efficiently, giving users a broad overview of the history of every project. They offer users the possibility to create different channels for various projects and to talk to multiple team members at a time, streamlining communication and saving the time of writing or responding to a long email. With uploading capabilities and even a call function, the whole team can stay connected, breaking down silos and allowing any newcomers to scroll through the chat history to get a broad overview of what’s happened up to now, so no one is left out of the loop.
Email has made our lives easier in so many ways, and it’s a vital part of a thriving business. But when you’re involved in or managing a project, it can sometimes do more harm than good. Reducing emails to a minimum ensures that teams can keep up with all their tasks, and focus on the important emails that come into their inbox each day and respond with care. It’s time to move to better and more efficient ways of managing projects.
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