Email – the convenience trap

Serial Ai Publisher4IR, Task Management

Using the right tools for the wrong reasons.

This series is about working in teams, working remotely in an effective manner. It is something I have been working on daily for many years. How do simplify teams? How do we work together when we are decentralised? When we can see each other. How do you track what your team mates are doing? How do you communicate in a way that people understand? What do other do with your communication you’ve sent to them? How do others know when we are working on requested tasks sent by them? Why do we have to get our reminder system to email us a reminder? Especially when the reminder system is your task management system?

”After everything has been said and done, much more has been said than done”

Should we always take the easiest way of logging tasks?
More often than not we get caught up in the convenience trap. We use tools that we like or are used to for things they are not supposed to be used for. Take Outlook for example. It is a great tool, it is amazing at what it does. More often than not Outlook becomes our email client, document storage facility, a reminder tool, a place to store future ideas, to store tasks we need to do – the list goes on and on. Somehow between using categories, folders and todo’s we perceive that we can in fact track all we need to do through our email client.

This is something that is not just relating to Outlook but an email usage problem. We don’t have a way to effective do handle our emails. We don’t have a good enough methodology on how to create tasks, events, store documents and other various types of information.

We overload our email system with things that should not be there.
On top of this we usually have a vague idea on what tasks need to be done and somehow try to focus on that which we think is important now. Things come at us at pace and emails get checked every few minutes or at least every hour. Emails are determining how we respond to the rest of the world.

Is email the best task manager ever made?
To get out of this trap we need to use tools for what their purposes are. Outlook is an email client, so is Gmail, Yahoo Mail etc. Use it for that. To respond and send emails. Don’t use it as a storage facility. Definitely don’t use it as a task manager. Do not use it to keep track of what you need to do and what you have done. When you have any given email that needs to be done or responded to at a specific time and date, that should be your cue that it belongs in a Calendar. Whichever calendar you use is up to you. There are many different flavours and depends on your liking. I use Google Calendar. Teams I work with use Outlook Calendar. Some people is their iPhones calendar. It does not matter, as long as there is a simple easy way for you to get the email’s info into you calendar. Simple. Now daily review your calendar for that day.

Should we use our calendar as a task manager?
What to do with tasks that has no date and time specific needs. If it is only date get this into your task management system or method. The one place you go to to review your current tasks that need to be dealt with. The place where you can store future tasks as well as review tasks for this week, month, quarter and year. This will be a good place to keep in mind your most important vision type tasks that span over a year. Once you have all your tasks together things become significantly easier. You know where to go to review and view your current daily requirements of things that need to be done.
Do you have hundreds of tasks coming at you? Using this methodology is even more important?

Document management and setting up corporate procedures for this is extremely import. Document management is a well covered and researched environment. There are many tools available that would be far better to use than email as a storage facility.