How to Stay on Top Using Google Tools


Do you find yourself saying, "I have too many things to do"? As a music retailer, the answer is usually “yes.” Here, I’ll show you how I use a few online tools to stay productive and ahead of the curve. In a sea of responsibilities, a combination of resources, such as Gmail, Google Calendar and other apps, keeps me on track. It’s easier than you think to manage your time—and these tools will change your day-to-day experience and impact your bottom line.

The Chrome browser from Google is fast and built to work with all Google products. You can create multiple users for Chrome—for example, one for personal use and one for business—then sync your bookmarks, passwords and extensions by user. This is a huge timesaver, as it lets you go to the Chrome browser on any computer, sign in and access all of your data immediately. Your history, settings and bookmarks can even sync to your mobile device.

Gmail’s tools make it easy to use, especially having the power of a Google search for your email. You can also use Gmail to send and receive email from other systems, such as AOL. All of your emails are automatically saved online, and Gmail gives you up to 25 GB of storage for free.

If you’re like me and receive lots of email every day, I would advise having one account for work and one for personal messages—you can create a Gmail account for each. If you’re using Google Apps for business, your work email will be hosted through Gmail. If not, just create a Gmail account, and set it up to check your work email.

Gmail has lots of neat features that you can enable. Just go to Settings, and click the link for Labs. Read through the features, and enable the ones you want to use.

The first rule of thumb is to reduce the amount of email in your primary in-box. Having too many emails in your in-box creates clutter, distraction and opportunities for things to get lost in the pile. To manage your email volume, go to, and sign up for its free service. It will search through your email, find whoever sends you email and let you unsubscribe, keep them or roll them into one email per day. I would encourage being ruthless with unsubscribing. It really makes life simpler.

Once you’re finished, go to, and install its app. This program will pause all incoming email, so that you can work through your in-box without being distracted by new incoming messages.

After you’ve paused, unsubscribed and rolled up your emails, click the down arrow next to the Gmail in-box and select Starred First. This will list emails that you’ve starred at the top in your in-box. Then, start sorting. Go through each email, following these rules:

1. If you don’t need it, unsubscribe or delete.
2. If you can’t do it, delegate it.
3. If you can do it in 2 minutes or less, do it now.
4. If it takes longer than 2 minutes, star it.
5. For everything else, archive or label it.

Once you’re finished, you should have a more manageable in-box.

Tip: If you have tons of email in your in-box, go to This site makes a game out of handling and sorting your email, taking the drudgery out of this task.

One of my favorite tools is Boomerang. It’s a simple browser add-on for Gmail that has drastically improved my ability to follow through. Boomerang lets you schedule emails to pop back into your in-box at a predetermined time or date. This is great for messages that you need to act on at some point in the future. It also lets you schedule these boomerangs for messages you’re sending. You can even select to have only messages return to your in-box if you didn’t receive a reply.

You can use Boomerang to schedule messages that you compose now and want to be sent at a specific future time. It lets you create recurring messages—great for those birthday greetings or staff meeting reminders. For more info on Boomerang for Gmail, go to to watch the demo video.

Bonus tip: Sometimes you need to send an email but don’t want to open Gmail and get distracted. Copy this link to your bookmarks, and click it any time you need to send an email without opening Gmail.

Google Hangouts
Google Hangouts allows for group video (or audio-only) conferencing—for free! Up to 15 people can participate in the video hangout, and you can even share your screen, which is handy for training.

Google Calendar
I like to create multiple calendars based on various aspects of my personal and professional life. I have personal calendars for my kids’ activities and my wife’s activities, as well as a private work calendar. Then, there are separate calendars for various aspects of our business, such as office personnel, sales and promotions, and floor staff. The beauty of Google Calendars is you can see multiple calendars all on one screen.

When I have a time-sensitive, important, or recurring task or event, I schedule it on the appropriate calendar. Then, I select the option to have the Calendar email me at a customized time period before the event. You can choose from 1 minute up to years in advance.

The great folks at Boomerang have also created an app called Boomerang Calendar that lets you schedule meetings right from your email in-box. Check out the website for a video that explains exactly how it works:

Google Drive
Google Drive is a great tool for sharing documents, spreadsheets, presentations and other files among your team. You can adjust the privacy levels as needed. It can be set so that only you, people you designate or your entire staff have the ability to view files. This is a great way to create, modify and share documents, so you and all of your employees stay on the same page. You can also install Google Drive on your computer and mobile device for easier use.

Google Apps for Business
Google Apps for Business is handy for medium to large stores. Most importantly, it lets you host your domain email directly via Gmail ( You can then create users through Google Apps, and they will all instantly have their own Gmail, Calendar and Drive accounts. This makes collaboration and file sharing instant and easy. You also get 30 GB of online storage for each user, security controls and the ability to make simple Intranet sites for internal use, such as for employee training. It’s only $5 per user, per month. If you commit to using Google Drive, you’ll see that it’s well worth the money spent.

Using these tools has helped me manage my business much more effectively and increase my productivity. I hope they’ll do the same for you!

This article is an update of “Retail Time Management: What to Do When You Have Too Much to Do.” You can view Bankhead’s original article here.