Simple Ways for Project Managers to Spend Less Time on Email


One of the ironies of digitized communication is that it’s far more permanent than paper. Dash off a hasty memo and you can shred the evidence. But once you’ve sent an email, it’s out there. Five minutes before you realize your mistake it’s already been forwarded to everyone and their brother, and probably blogged. And nine times out of ten, they never read past the first 4 sentences.

So just about everyone has an email address these days, whether it’s for work, personal use or both. As a result, each morning millions of us turn on our computers or check our smartphones, only to find our in-boxes packed with emails. Most of us live very busy lives and ain’t nobody got time to manually filter their inbox each and every morning, ain’t nobody!

Following some of the following advices, this will allow you to concentrate more on the things you really need to do during your busy day as project manager:

1. Read and respond

If you’re reading an email and you can reply back in 3 minutes or less, do it. It’s a total waste of time to go back to it later in the day when you can deal with it now. Answer it and move on.

2. Set a time to check emails

Most people constantly check their in-boxes several times a day – that time really adds up, distracting you from other more meaningful tasks. Find a schedule that works for you and keep to it.

In some cases, sending an email at 8 pm is just as effective as sending it first thing in the morning as most people won’t check their in-boxes till they are back at work the following day.

3. Make email work for you

With everything we have to do in our lives, the task of filtering your email account everyday, deleting spam and spending time unsubscribing is a real pain. Using message filters, with one click you can move senders into the spam / delete folder, and their emails will never been seen again in your inbox.

4. The Email Jumble up

The Email Jumble occurs when you receive an email in your inbox that you don’t need to read or reply immediately, but needs to be addressed sometime in the near future. These are the emails that you remind yourself mentally you will get around to, but they either end up getting lost in the abyss that is your inbox, you end up forgetting about them, or you spend too much mental time thinking about them each time you see them sitting in your inbox.


5. Reshuffle your attachments

Having attachments in various emails that are swimming in a pool of thousands of other emails is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Your IT department might have a limit per email message and attachment. The use of automated archive feature will help you reduce size of your inbox too.

For example, AttachmentExtractor add-on for Thunderbird, let you save all attachment from several emails at once. You can select all the e-mails from which you wish to download the attachments, right-click, and then click “Extract From Selected Messages To” > “(0) Browse“, and then pick the directory you want to save the attachments to.

1 email save as / detach
How to save attachments from several eMails

6. Get rid of the distractions

Whether email notifications or social media notifications it doesn’t take too much to distract us. Electronic communication can be difficult on the best of days.

The average information worker–basically anyone at a desk–loses 2.1 hours of productivity every day to interruptions and distractions, according to Basex, an IT research and consulting firm. Turn off the notifications on your inbox and your mobile device, and combine this with tip #2 to waste even less time on emails.


As the old saying goes, time is money, and the more time you spend managing your emails, the less time you have to be productive. Your typical office workers spends 2.6 hours per day messing about in their inbox. Multiply that by the number of employees your business has or the amount of days you work and you realize there’s a big gaping hole that really needs to be patched up.

Follow all 6 tips today and watch the hours you, as a Project Manager, used to spend on emails disappear.


The need for communication does not automatically translate to the need for formality. For some projects, deliverables might be easily satisfied by email rather than formal released documents.

Project leaders and the team are empowered to tailor the guidelines to each project, using appropriate formality or informality of deliverables for the project’s activities, simply keeping in mind other company communication and documentation needs.

As we described above, one of the communication channels -email- used by a project manager, we also need to find a balance between real projects and the need to answer each email that comes through out mailbox.

Inexperienced project managers tend to focus too much on urgent day-to-day tasks while more pressing responsibilities languish. Even experienced project leaders can descend into survival mode now and then. It’s something akin to driving 100 kilometers per hour while staring at the windshield wipers. In the worst situations, I’ve discovered so-called leaders spending the bulk of their time sending and reviewing email while their bewildered team gropes their way toward a fuzzy finish line or sinks into the icy couch of despair.

Amateur project manager? Want a safer password?

Comments? Join us at {EDC Developer}

Anayansi Gamboa, MPM, an EDC Developer Consultant and clinical programmer for the Pharmaceutical and Biotech industry with more than 13 years of experience.

Available for short-term contracts or ad-hoc requests. See my specialties section (Oracle, SQL Server, EDC Inform, EDC Rave, OpenClinica, SAS and other CDM tools)

As the 3 C’s of life states: Choices, Chances and Changes- you must make a choice to take a chance or your life will never change. I continually seek to implement means of improving processes to reduce cycle time and decrease work effort.

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