Can E-Mail Do This?

Thoughts on the silliness of using e-mail as a task- or project-management tool.

Last year, I had the opportunity to work with several new people—and the outcomes could not have been more different.

One very talented WordPress developer immediately embraced the productivity and communication tools I recommended. I’d share my screen with him using join.me, share files on Dropbox, assign him tasks on Todoist, and take screen shots with Jing. My sole e-mail from him was his invoice. Working with him was a pure joy and we have done some more work together since.

This is not 1998. Far better productivity tools exist.

The other person, an SEO expert, refused to entertain the idea that any of these tools was remotely useful. She had her way of working and she wasn’t about to deviate from it for me. The way she saw it, our work together needed to be done via e-mail come hell or high water. The very idea of using something other than e-mail to handle our project was anathema to her. Needless to say, after a fairly tense week of back-and-forth, we gladly decided to part ways.

Overcoming the Default E-Mail Mind-Set

I’ve know for a long time that people hate change—especially when they excel at the status quo. As I write in Message Not Received, sending 100 e-mails per workday means that in one year we’ll send 24,000 give or take. Do something anywhere near that many times and you’re going to excel at it. Many employees fail to ask the more important question: Should I be using e-mail in the first place?

To those who doubt the value of new productivity and collaborative tools, I offer the following query:

Can e-mail really and easily tell you when you’re most productive? 

The following is a screenshot from my annual Todoist productivity report. It manifests the times and days on which I am most productive:

To be fair, although I don’t know the methodology behind the report, the tool ostensibly values all tasks the same. That is, there’s no qualitative difference among tasks. For instance, watering my plants or picking up my dry cleaning is tantamount to completing a blog post for one of my clients. I’d love to be able to filter out domestic tasks from work-related ones, but that’s not the point of this post.

Simon Says: Stop thinking of e-mail as a Swiss Army Knife.

Todoist—or any of its many equivalents—is a far superior way of managing projects and tasks than e-mail. Period. The fact that I can look at data to confirm when I’m most productive is just icing on the cake.

Stop treating e-mail as the only productivity and communication tool out there.

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