How to Use E-Mail Effectively during Your Project

E-mail is a fast, convenient means of conducting one-way, written communication during a project. For example, you can use e-mail to confirm oral discussions and agreements with project team members. In these instances, you want a written message to stand on its own with no interactive discussion or explanation. If a recipient needs to ask questions, the written message hasn’t documented the information clearly and accurately.

Benefits of using e-mail during a project

Using e-mail has many desirable qualities when it comes to project management:

  • The sender and receiver don’t have to be present at the time of communication. You can write an e-mail message whenever you want, and your recipient can read it at his convenience.

  • The sender and receiver don’t have to be in the same place. You can send your message anywhere from Iowa to Tibet.

  • Your message is delivered quickly. Relaying your message doesn’t depend on delivery schedules, work-hours, or weather conditions.

  • E-mail serves as written documentation. The receiver can read your message several times to clarify its meaning, and it serves as a reminder that you have shared the information.

  • You can store e-mail on computer hard disks, Zip disks, USB flash drives, CDs, or DVDs rather than in hard copy. This capability saves you space and money and makes retrieval easier.

Drawbacks of using e-mail during a project

Using e-mail to share project information is quick and convenient, but, unfortunately, e-mail also has the following drawbacks:

  • People may not read it.

  • The medium doesn’t provide real-time interaction between sender and receiver.

  • Communication is limited to the exchange of words.

  • Readers can often misinterpret the content or intent.

In addition, e-mail can’t be the exclusive means of communication to do any of the following tasks:

  • Brainstorm to analyze problems and develop new ideas.

  • Build and sustain team members’ trust and commitment.

  • Share an important message.

How to maximize e-mail during a project

Get the most from your project team e-mail communications by following these tips:

  • Be concise. Use clear, measurable words, and avoid technical jargon and acronyms when possible.

  • Read your e-mail before you send it. People’s impressions of you, your ideas, and your attitude are strongly affected by what you say and how you say it. Take a moment to proof your e-mail message before you hit Send. Make sure you’ve made no typos.

  • Anticipate miscommunications. Put yourself in your audience’s shoes. How might they misinterpret your message? What additional information might they want to have? Have you been clear about how you want them to respond to your message? In other words, minimize the need for extra e-mails back and forth to raise questions and clarify points by writing one, well-thought-out e-mail.

  • Be sure people have received it. If possible, program your system to let you know automatically when your audience has opened your e-mail. Otherwise, ask the receiver to verify that he’s received the message via a return e-mail, a phone call, or a quick face-to-face conversation.

  • Keep a copy of important e-mails. Maintain a file of important messages you’ve sent. Keep computerized records of all sent e-mails on an external hard drive, and keep paper copies of especially important e-mails. These copies confirm the information, date, and recipients.

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