Communication is at the heart of all successful projects. And oftentimes, emails are what teams use to stay connected with clients and stakeholders — and each other.
If you’ve ever worked on a project before, you know that you typically receive countless emails related to task reminders, project updates, external newsletters, and other spam during the project lifecycle.
This onslaught of project emails makes it extremely important that your emails are concise, attention-grabbing, and properly structured to avoid getting missed in your colleagues’ already messy inboxes.
To help you manage your projects effectively, we’ll break down the benefits and challenges of utilizing project management emails and share 10 tips to help you write them better.
When your emails are straightforward and contain clear CTAs, everyone involved in the project will have a clearer understanding of what needs to be prioritized.
With better project management emails, you’ll reap the following benefits as well:
- Maintain credibility: Unprofessional or poorly worded emails can jeopardize your client’s faith in your ability to successfully get the work done.
- Eliminate confusion: When your emails are short and direct, your team will immediately understand what they need to get done without having to read between the lines.
- Helps with recordkeeping: “Why was this decision made? Who authorized this?” might be questions you hear if something goes wrong. Luckily, if you’re using email to your advantage, you’ll have the email chains with the answers to those questions organized and ready.
- Coordination among all project stakeholders: Many teams have come to rely on Slack or other platforms for quick communication among the project team. However, your client won’t have access to your Slack workspace, meaning if there are matters needing the attention of your team and the client, you’ll need to rely on email.
Although undoubtedly a helpful and necessary part of project management, email is often regarded as too clunky for day-to-day internal communication, and for good reason.
Here’s a look at a few challenges that come with email project management:
- Time-consuming: Solely relying on email to manage project progress can quickly take up a significant amount of time. Platforms like Slack are much better suited for brief internal questions and discussions.
- Losing track of documents: Although email attachments are a convenient way to send along documents, it’s not exactly an ideal way to keep files organized. Instead, you’ll want to rely on a project management tool to keep your documentation centralized.
- Too much inbox clutter: Sorting through your inbox is often a to-do list task in and of itself. When your team is overly reliant on email, it’ll be easy to miss important emails and as a result, it’ll likely take you longer to respond to everything that requires your attention.
But regardless of the benefits and challenges of doing so, email is more than likely a skill you’ll need to rely on to manage your projects. Here are 10 tips for writing better project management emails.
Many people receive hundreds of emails on a weekly basis. Whether you’re sending an email to a client, a stakeholder, or just a member of your team, you want your email to cut through the noise. The best way to do so is with a relevant subject line.
Project managers or other team members who struggle with managing their email inboxes likely also struggle with prioritizing which items to tackle first. But if the reader can identify within one glance what an email is about without opening it, they will have a better sense of how to prioritize it, too.
This is why subject lines should reflect the content of the email while keeping things brief. Let’s take a look at an example:
Subject title A: Meeting about finalizing social media project for Cozulli Shoes
Subject title B: Final meeting Cozulli Shoes
Option B is much shorter and therefore easier to find when team members look through their inboxes. The shorter subject line still gives enough context for the recipient to recall the project context.
In some cases, you could add “URGENT” or “[ACTION REQUIRED]” to the subject line to grab instant attention. It’s best to do this sparingly though, as an inbox where everything is listed as “urgent” isn’t helpful.
Anyone who’s ever sent an email knows that you have three address lines when sending a message: “To:”, “Cc:” and “Bcc”. It’s important to put some thought into who you include on each line to ensure nothing gets lost in communication.
The “To:” line should only include the people who you need a response from or those who need to act on the information included in the email. Try to keep your “To:” recipients to a minimum to limit the potential for miscommunication. You can also mention people using “@” within your emails so it’s clear what you need from each person.
Your “Cc:” line should include the people you want to keep informed but don’t need to receive a response from. That said, try to use CCs sparingly, as they can be the main culprit behind clogged email inboxes. You don’t want to spam anyone with information that isn’t relevant to them.
The “Bcc:” line stands for blind carbon copy, and it allows you to add people to the email without their details being visible to anyone else. You might do this when you need to keep your boss or stakeholders up to speed on an issue without the recipients’ knowledge. This isn’t the most transparent way to approach email communication, and you’ll only really need to use it on a situational basis.
While small talk is a nice gesture, don’t overdo it — just get to the point. Start by addressing the most action items first.
Your subject line should give them an initial idea of what the email is about, and your first few sentences should fill in the remaining blanks. Your least important discussion points should come at the end of the email.
Because emails can be any length, you might be tempted to include as much information as possible. Oftentimes though, this is actually counterproductive.
Time is of the essence for project managers, and no one wants to read long-winded progress updates when they have a to-do list to complete. Plus, a lot of information can get lost in translation when you need to scan a lengthy email in order to find action items.
Instead, short and simple is key. Try to avoid jargon and other complicated language, too.
Let’s say you absolutely need to include a lot of detail in an email. Instead of writing an essay, we recommend using bullet points to your advantage.
Not only are bullet points easier to scan, but they also don’t even need to be complete sentences. This will save both you and the reader significant time.
Another way to condense your text is by using short videos. If you need to demonstrate how to do something, instead of typing out lengthy instructions, you can use a tool like Loom to record your screen showing the recipient exactly what they need to do.
Unless the purpose of your email is to provide a status update on project progress, then you’ll almost always have a call to action — also known as a CTA — within your email.
A good call to action will either specifically outline what action is required by the reader, or it might take the form of a question. It’s important that you don’t just allude to a problem or insinuate that your reader should pick it up, as not everybody will feel inclined to take action. Be very specific with what you need.
Look at this example:
Option A: Elisabeth, I feel like it’s been a while since we heard back from sales lead X, maybe they are not interested in doing business with us anymore? We should find out.
Option B: Elisabeth, could you please follow up with sales lead X today to close the deal?
Besides the fact that option A is unnecessarily long, it’s not clear enough that Elisabeth is being made responsible for finding out the status of this deal. Option B is short but tells Elisabeth exactly what to do and when.
Once again, limit the amount of CTAs in one email. If there are too many CTAs spread across different projects, then it’s often more effective to send multiple emails instead.
Throughout this blog, we’ve stressed the importance of keeping things short and concise, but sometimes that can come off as cold.
As the project manager, you want to keep your team feeling motivated and appreciated. One way to do so is by incorporating words of encouragement into your emails, especially after you’ve added a few CTAs.
Here’s an example of how you can easily do so:
Could you please call client X today, to close the deal?
Just a few positive words of encouragement can make a huge difference while remaining short and concise. See here:
Could you please call client X today, to close the deal?
Keep up the great work!
Adding an automated signature at the bottom of your emails will ensure recipients will have all your correct contact information, which is a good idea when working with a lot of external clients and vendors. Plus, sometimes people prefer to respond to an email with a phone call, and this way everyone will have your number from your email signature.
Besides this, having a neat-looking email signature also makes you look more professional. For project managers, this can make a big difference, as it clearly communicates your function and position as a team leader.
Include your company logo, job title, and contact information to make your email signature look professional and sleek.
Check out the example below:
We all know the feeling of sitting in a meeting and thinking: This could’ve been an email.
That said, sometimes email chains can get lengthy, leaving you wishing you had just scheduled a meeting instead. From a project perspective, you might want to consider what kinds of updates you relay through email versus which will prompt questions that are better discussed verbally.
If you expect your next project progress report to be quite lengthy with multiple graphs and charts, you might want to request a meeting with the client instead so that you can present everything clearly and answer their questions live.
Although emails are an important part of project management, it’s difficult to rely solely on them to see a project through to completion. Instead, relying on a project management tool — like Rodeo Drive, which has all of the features you need to navigate each project stage — is your best bet.
By introducing a project management tool into your workflows, you’ll be able to turn your email CTAs into project tasks and schedule out when they need to be completed. Plus, features like time tracking and reporting can ensure your projects remain profitable and within budget.
Here are a few of Rodeo Drive’s features that help manage projects more efficiently:
#1 Client contact management
When you’re working on multiple projects at once, it can be easy to lose track of your contact information for each client or stakeholder. This is why Rodeo Drive offers a contact management feature that allows you to store addresses, phone numbers, rate cards, and standard markups for each client.
This is especially helpful when turnover happens on your team, as it provides newer project managers with a place to refer back to if there are questions regarding who’s the point of contact for a project.
#2 In-app invoicing
Invoices can be a hassle to manually sort out via email. Rodeo Drive’s invoicing feature allows you to customize invoices with your own branding, terms and conditions, and even discounts. Invoices can be sent via QuickBooks integration in the US and directly from Rodeo Drive or Xero in the UK.
#3 Plan and assign project tasks
When you’re dishing out CTAs and other tasks via email, it can be difficult to know what each team member is working on at the moment. Overscheduling your team members can quickly result in burnout.
Rodeo Drive’s planner and task management feature allows you to easily assign tasks and plan out deadlines based on team capacity. Having an at-a-glance planner can be super useful in ensuring all of your tasks are completed on time.
Ready to give it a try? Try for free to discover how Rodeo Drive can streamline your project management communication.
Overloading people with emails is certainly not the goal when you’re trying to provide your team with valuable information and instructions. This is why it’s crucial for your emails to be well-written and insightful — that way your recipients will still get something out of them without wasting anyone’s time.
In this blog, we’ve provided you with a few strategies to do just that. Hopefully, you feel better equipped to take on email project management.
And don’t forget that you don’t have to go to it alone. An email project management tool can significantly improve your team’s workflows and capacity planning. Why not give Rodeo Drive a try?