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Emails Stink – Tasks Rule

How many emails do you get a day?

The average worker receives about 80ish emails a day and sends around 30.

Email was originally invented to get rid of paper interoffice memos. It has obviously morphed into so much more than that, it has become so ubiquitous in our lives that most of us can’t live without it.

Also, most people have used folders and labels and many other organizing schemes to turn email into things that it was never intended to do, mostly it is how we manage our to-do lists and assign tasks to people.

Email was never intended to be a task solution. As a matter of fact, it is a horrible task solution and the fact that you get so many emails a day just compounds its inadequacies.

If you want to get things done and have your teams execute then you need to use tasks instead of email.

The perfect task has the following attributes.

  • It is assigned to one or more people who are notified that they have something to do.
  • Tasks are one-to-one – ex: deep clean and organize the storeroom.
  • Tasks have a due date
  • You are notified when a task has been completed or is late.

So many of use email to assign work because it is right there and it is so easy to use but it doesn’t do any of the things we just mentioned as paramount for getting things done. Also, email is so free form that we often violate the rules of tasks for speed but we end up causing ourselves more headaches and follow-up on the back end.

Some common email task mistakes:

There is no accountability with email

As we said earlier, people get 80 work emails a day. New emails get buried in your inbox quickly. I don’t know how this is possible but emails get lost all the time, you know you read it but you can’t find it.

Also, we have all used the excuse that we didn’t see an email when asked about by a colleague or a friend why we hadn’t responded.  Being overwhelmed by the amount of email you get and missing things in email is so commonplace today that we all let each other off of the hook for the occasional lapse. Which is fine except for when you need something done.

With a Task system you assign a task to a person, they are notified that they have a task. You can easily track the tasks status and progress updates. In our system, you will get notified of a new task by push notification, email, or internal message.

Burry your task requests in a longer email

Have you ever sent an email with a bunch of to do’s or tasks and then none of it gets done? There is an expectation when writing an email that you at least put a person’s name in there and say and an introductory sentence.  The next thing you know your request or task is buried in a paragraph.  This makes it that much more likely that it won’t get done.

With a task, there is no requirement for a greeting or chit-chat.  You get a description of what needs to be done and when it needs to be done by.

Send a list of tasks in an email

Email doesn’t require us to be one-to-one when assigning tasks, as a matter of fact, it would be considered weird if you sent 10 separate emails with 1o individual tasks. This is probably the most common mistake of assigning work through email.  You create a list of things you want to be done but as soon as you add the second item, you lose accountability.

I can’t tell you how many times I have fallen into this trap.  I sent an email with a list of things to be done, the person did the first thing and then replied it was completed.  Completed what? Did you complete my whole list?  So now you go back and forth several times trying to get every item completed.

Tasks take a little longer to get started because you should create one task per request but they save you so much in accountability and follow-up that it makes the initial time increase completely worth it.

Emails don’t have due dates

We all get so busy that due dates just creep up on us.  They come and go and if you don’t have a reminder you will simply miss the day.  You can’t assign a due date to an email, so you are putting all of the responsibility for remembering that you wanted something done on yourself.

With a task system, you set a due date and it will notify you when things are due and tell all people associated with the task when it has been completed or if it is late.

Status & Updates get Scattered

With a task system, most tasks have a status.  In-progress, completed, etc.. You can use these statuses to figure out where everything you have assigned is currently at.  It makes it so much easier to manage when you have this type of visibility.

Also, updates can be tracked in the task program and therefore you can see everything that is happening.  With email people can reply back but then your email chain gets so scattered or you have so many emails that it becomes hard to find the update information.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog, email is probably the number one used business tool today.  It is great at what it does but it isn’t great at tasks. I would recommend to any of you who are managing a team to investigate moving from using email to using a task program instead and just using email for communication.  The productivity gains and reduction in stress will be worth the switch.

At OpsAnalitica, we have just released our task management functionality inside of the OpsAnalitica Platform.  You can now create action plan and ad hoc tasks and use the system to manage your operations.  If you would like to see the task management in action, please schedule a demo here.