Professionals working in project management roles are often victims of excessive emailing. No matter how much time you put into it, getting that overflowing inbox under control is an exhausting challenge. Moreover, battling through emails is rarely an efficient way to proceed in the field.
Indeed, a professional in a project management position plays a key role in maintaining a global perspective of different steps, timelines, and processes and must avoid operating on a narrow, email-by-email basis. If you can relate, this article aims to offer some experience-based viewpoints on how to manage this reality. Therefore, beating overflowing is the key to improving your job as a project manager.
Regardless of your decision-making power within an organization, you are capable of changing your habits. If you and your colleagues are drowning in emails, it is time to take a step back and brainstorm ways to address the issue. This seems like an obvious point, but flaws in an implanted system are often overlooked when workload invades, and it is a team effort to shed light on them.
Breaking it down
You’ve established that there’s an issue; now it’s time to tackle it. The first step is to be selective: what must absolutely be treated via email? Perhaps email is the best way for those external to your organization, such as clients or providers, to reach you. Maybe there are sensitive topics that require email traceability. What is almost certain is that not all subjects need an email and taking the time to establish this distinction allows you to apply adequate solutions to different topics.
For topics that absolutely need to be managed by email:
- Consider adopting some inbox management techniques to keep your overflowing messages to a minimum.
- You may benefit from restructuring the way email-related tasks are dealt with. The creation of a generic mailbox may make it easier to centralize communication with external stakeholders while allowing for internal task distribution.
Alternatives to emailing
For the topics for which emailing is not imperative, such as internal communication and follow-ups, a variety of tools can make your life easier. These can be sorted into two categories:
a) Communication tools
There is a large offer of business IM (Instant Messaging) software and a significant amount of web content to help compare these tools and their features. These communication tools are particularly interesting as emails are not made for collaboration or real-time conversations, and ongoing emails between more than two people can quickly become confusing and difficult to overlook. As a daily user of Microsoft Teams, some of its most useful functionalities include:
- IM (Instant Messaging) either privately or in group chats
- Individual or group video calls that can be recorded and allow screen-sharing
- File and picture-sharing and traceability
b) Task management tools
In this regard, there is also a great variety of tools that visually and structurally help organize workflows. An example is JIRA, widely known among agile teams in software development. Some of its main features include:
- Creation of roadmaps
- Agile work planning
- Customizable agile boards: Scrum and Kanban
The advantages of using task management tools such as JIRA are clear: it reduces the likelihood of missing important information, which is a risk in workflows heavily dependent on email, and it allows for more structured task management and deadlines.
No doubt these alternatives are familiar to most professionals in project management roles, but then perhaps the question we should be asking is: why is the overflowing inbox still a reality?
On this note, I encourage you to think about and discuss with your peers which section in this article: 1, 2, or 3, your team would most benefit from focusing on as a first step, and once again beating overflowing is the key to improving your job as a project manager.