You don’t have to be ruled by your inbox!
Tool #1: Collaboration software
If you are still assigning tasks to team members via email then you will find collaboration software a completely liberating way of working! It lets you allocate tasks to someone and see what has been assigned to the rest of the team, including yourself. It will manage your To Do list and add notes to tasks so that you can stay up-to-date with the latest status of project work. Even better, it lets you start and contribute to online group discussions which takes a lot of the chit chat and decision-making process out of your inbox.
Some collaboration tools let you perform Twitter-like messaging and comment on your colleague’s contributions. It’s faster and slicker than email, and it has the added benefit of keeping all communication in one place—better for audit purposes and for being sure to avoid communication problems that often cause project failure.
Tool #2: Instant messaging
There are lots of instant messaging tools available, and you might ask why these are any better than email. After all, if the person you want to talk to is at their desk and online, email can be pretty quick. However, instant messaging tools are better because they let you see who is available to chat which saves you from contacting them if they are away from their desk or otherwise unavailable. You don’t have that with email.
Email also relies on the person checking their inbox for new messages. Instant messaging pops up in the corner of the screen so it gets their attention immediately, again saving you time. Don’t worry about the chats not being a secure record of a decision: these days most instant messaging tools have the option to export the discussion so you can save it somewhere and keep a record of what was agreed.
Tool #3: Online document storage
One of the things that many people use their inbox for is to store files that arrive attached to an email. It is better to save the attachment to your online document storage system and then delete the original email. This takes up less space in your inbox and makes it easy to find the file when you need it. In addition, you won’t have to worry about hunting for the latest version amongst all your emails as you know that what’s stored online is the most up-to-date copy of the document.
Tool #4: The phone
It might be low-tech, but you can still ring someone and talk to them about the project! Sometimes it is nice to hear a friendly voice and it helps you connect with your project team members, especially if they are based in different locations to you.
Try to find time each week to call one or two of your team members just to say hello, especially if you do the majority of your work through online project management software tools. This can help build good working relationships and trust in the team.
Tool #5: Face-to-face meetings
There is no doubting that email is cheap and quick. But sometimes only a face-to-face catch up will do. Whether you use software for video or web conferencing or meet in person, being able to actually see each other reduces the chance of your message being misunderstood and can be a much faster way to communicate than sending emails back and forth.
The professional but easy to use tools make collaboration a breeze, and help you avoid the problems that come with poor project communication and email overload.