Managing Your Personal Projects With Email

Can You Do It Alone?

Can one really manage a project through email alone? If so, then how? This article investigates whether email is a useful project management tool and how to use email to your advantage for personal and small project management situations.

Can One Manage a Project Through Email Alone?

There are two sides to this question. Many people believe that you cannot manage a project through email alone. Reasons suporting this argument include:


  • People may not read the email.
  • Email distracts resources.
  • Resources lose email.
  • Only one out of ten will be able to locate and utilize the email.
  • Resources may not receive relevant emails.

Moreover, email can be a messy way to manage projects. It lends itself to disorganization, overwhelming resources, and getting lost. Certainly, you would not want to use email alone to organize a massive or complex project.

Can you organize small or personal projects through email alone? While email lends itself to becoming lost in a sea of spam, personal correspondence, and relevant memos, it is possible to manage personal projects or very small projects utilizing it. Many email applications will allow users to sort messages into folders or to categorize messages. Through using these features, project management through email alone may be manageable.

How Can You Manage a Project Through Email?

In this section, I will take you step by step through managing a project utilizing email. This tutorial is not to be used with complex projects (project management software is better suited for this). Rather, I recommend this for small projects–think, a small team of 2-5 people–or personal projects.

1. Create a folder specific to the project. For example, if you are working on a research project studying bear behavior, create a folder titled “Bear Behavior.” This is where you will keep all correspondence relating to the project.

2. Start a new email. Send this email to yourself and any team members for your project.This email will list the important tasks and subtasks relating to the project in an outline form. By using an outline form, you can thereby have a code for each task or subtask in the project.

3. Send emails with or without pertinent attachments for each task or subtask. Code these emails using the outline numbers designated in the master project email. For example, if something were a sub-task of task 1, you would code the email 1.a.

4. If a task has a deadline attached, send its email with the deadline in all caps in the subject. This way, the deadline stands out prominently.

5. Only use the project folder and coding for one project at a time. This way, you avoid the hassle of mixing projects up.

This is just one general account of how to use email for small and personal project management. Many platforms for email (Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and Entourage) have tools now that allow for basic project management using calendars and tasks.