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Is email killing your project planning?

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Ever feel like email is the bane of your life? That each time you open your inbox you’re sucked into a time-swallowing vortex of mini-meetings that you can’t ever quite clear?

Well, you’re not alone. The average professional spends over 40% of the working day reading and responding to email.

And if you’ve just returned from a holiday, it’s likely the task ahead can be worn as a badge of honour to your colleagues. Never mind that all your houseplants are dead, the real tragedy here is the 56,900 emails waiting for you to dig through. 

Make no mistake, the invention of electronic mail sparked one of the most profound changes in communication both in the office and at home. It’s – perhaps sadly – near impossible to imagine life without it. 

Email is good at covering lots of communications needs, like marketing (*nudge* make sure to sign up to Dayshape Insights, our monthly newsletter specifically designed for those looking to make working lives better in the professional services). But too many of us are relying on it for things we shouldn’t, like task planning and project management.

Over-dependence on email is holding you back

Beyond the insane stats, there is a huge productivity issue here: we dedicate so much time to email that it’s distracting us from our actual work. For example:

Once upon a time we just used email to send basic, one-way messages and forward on those ‘101 crazy things only accountants know’ chain mails. But as our dependence on the internet grew, inboxes evolved into giant checklists.

Perhaps sensing this, Microsoft and Google were amongst the first to add Task Management features to their email services. It’s a handy feature for some, but not a director responsible for the development and management of work plans, schedules and project budgets.

One of the Google Ventures founders, M.G. Siegler, experimented with Gmail’s task feature by converting his emails into a jobs inventory. He found between 50 to 75 per cent of the emails he received were to-do requests from others. Individually, these queries were acceptable, but taken together they were, in the words of the man himself, “a nightmare.”

“There’s no way anyone could manage such a system without spending the vast majority of their day doing email,” he wrote on his blog.

It’s all the more baffling as to why so many executives inside large accounting firms still lean on email way too much for logistics coordination and task planning issues when bespoke solutions that save both time and money are out there. 

At best, email can be handy after a meeting to confirm something was said, but for keeping tabs on your team’s annual leave or tracking potential opportunities? Sure, it can work, but in the same way, you can smash a nail into a wall using a wrench, it’s entirely the wrong tool for the job.

Email is a productivity killer

Communication and task management are intrinsically linked, and yet wholly different things. Merging them is neither a time nor a cost saver. If you want to check the details of a new booking, do you really want to be scrolling through old messages to find out the date someone said they would be available? 

Using email to track tasks also means you have to keep your inbox open all day and have notifications on, which means almost constant disruption. 

The average employee checks their email up to 36 times an hour, and it can take up to 23 minutes to get back to their original task after doing so. The constant back-and-forth is a huge drain; let’s not forget, emails by their nature are disruptive.

The simple pleasure of ticking off a list

Where email overwhelms and adds stress to the working day, intelligent task management tools designed to update projects as-live can actually give staff belief that their work matters. 

Marking tasks done and chalking up achievements can empower employees and boost morale in such a simple way; we all know the best bit of drawing up a to-do list is getting to tick off the bits you’ve finished. 

Smart automated systems let the users see the progress of a mission, and this kind of engagement can make staff happier and more plugged in to the wider vision. At the very least they are free to spend more time on their projects and less time digging through old emails. 

Efficiency is at the heart of intelligent planning

The latest generation of solutions help users arrange and manage every daily task in a single place without having to toggle between email and other tools. 

You may be working on a tablet from a coffee shop, or on-site dealing with a crisis at a client’s base, but you’ll still be able to log into the same system and see what’s what, without having to worry about email overload. 

Efficiency is at the heart of intelligent task planning, and given how much of our lives email is already draining, it’s clear this communications tool, as revolutionary as it is, isn’t the best way to map out projects. 

Removing task management and project goals from our inboxes and laying them out in a centralised, automated platform cuts the time employees lose dealing with emails, eliminates distractions from the working day, and above all, seriously improves productivity.

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