E-Mails for Project Managers
Yesterday was another one of those days… 250 e-mails in my inbox. Yes, in one day! Of course 75% of it was spam. And even if you use Mail.app's spam filter – which actually works very well – you will always find that a mail slipped into the wrong folder from time to time. This triggered an interesting discussion: Is the e-mail still relevant for the project manager, or have Slack & Co. already taken over all the tasks? But first let me take a closer look at the subject of e-mail.
How is email written correctly?
One of my favorite discussions ;-) When I skim our website, I find at least two versions: eMail and e-Mail. But what is correct? Internationally it is a bit difficult. Here the use of email or e-mail is roughly balanced. As usual, the Duden has a clear opinion for the German-speaking area: E-Mail.
Rules for a good email
The following list should be a guideline – not only for the project manager – but also for all other professionals:
- Address to the right people! Try to avoid sending emails to a large number of people and copy people with care.
- Use the correct subject line A suitable subject not only helps with the first reading – or the decision not to read it. Also later, possibly after years, the subject helps to find a mail at all again.
- Is your sender correct? I often get e-mails from people I actually know, but who used a different address as sender. Something like this can quickly go into the spam folder.
- Only one topic per mail! I have noticed that the attention span of many people is very limited unfortunately. That's why I've been accustomed to discussing only one topic in an e-mail for many years. In the best case, I close a mail with a Postscriptum (PS) as a reference to another topic. This usually works quite well.
- Keep it short! That was a reminder every time I picked up the phone in the past. Remember: those were the days that every minute costs money (sic!). The length of an e-mail does not have to be paid today, but reading is a time expenditure. For detailed background information I use links to the internet or intranet (i.e. to internal pages).
How often do I read and reply to my e-mails?
In my daily routine, e-mails have their place three times:
- in the morning at the beginning of the day
- after the lunch break.
- in the evening before end of work
In the meantime my Mail.app is closed, so that I am not distracted by constant notifications.
Replying to mails is just as regular:
- If I can briefly reply to an e-mail, it happens directly.
- If it takes more than 2-3 days to reply to an e-mail, the sender receives information about it.
- If I get angry about an e-mail, I like to write an answer immediately, but I don't send it. Instead, I read the answer again the next day. Normally, a clearly defused version then goes out.
Please always remember: Today, an e-mail can be used as judicial proof.
E-mails in Merlin Project
Of course, Merlin Project also offers perfect support for e-mails. Our strategy is that our software should never be a write or manage program for e-mails. So the good old Drag & Drop was the way to drag mails to the project, a task or a resource. That gives you two important advantages:
- The original e-mail is assigned in the target application, on the Mac it is usually Mail.app or Spark, Microsoft Outlook, Mailbox – the list can be extended almost endlessly.
- In Merlin Project, a copy is created as an attachment to the activity (or task). This allows you to quickly find the desired communication.
If any e-mail is saved in Merlin Project, a preview can be opened with pressing the space bar (think of Quicklook in the Finder). With just one mouse click you can open it in your mail app.
And the resolution after the discussion
The result was the famous: "That depends" ;-) Our internal discussion is almost exclusively about Slack. Here is the advantage that you can discuss with single or many people in a team without always getting swamped in e-mails.
In the communication with the outside world it is exactly the other way around. Even if a business partner is connected to me via Slack or something, both parties prefer e-mail.
This means that e-mail is still – since 1971 and thus long before the WWW – the most frequently used Internet medium. Thanks, Ray Tomlinson!