Do you find yourself saying, "I have too many things to do to worry about being productive"? The good news is managing your time is easier than you think. A few simple online tools will help you stay on track, even with a sea of responsibilities. Specifically, my favorite tools are Gmail, Boomerang, Google Calendar and Google Drive (formerly Google Docs). These will change your day-to-day experience—and impact your bottom line.
Much of what I will say here may apply to other email systems, but in my opinion, Gmail’s tools make everything so much easier.
The first rule of thumb is that we must reduce the amount of email in our primary inbox. Many people have hundreds or even thousands of emails in their inboxes. This creates clutter and distraction, and too many opportunities for things to be lost in the pile. I would recommend you Google the topic “inbox zero” and study this concept.
In a nutshell, you create labels or folders to help sort your mail. Then, using Gmail’s built-in filters, you can have new incoming email automatically sorted into these folders. That way, when you get that promotional email from your favorite shoe store or your sister emails you her favorite cat pictures, it doesn’t clutter your primary inbox, which should be your place for important items that require immediate attention only.
If you have hundreds or more emails in your inbox, another idea is to create an email “DMZ” folder. This is basically another inbox. (I call mine “!nbox,” so it shows at the top of my folder list.) By moving all inbox emails to this folder, I get the benefits of a fresh start with all new incoming emails.
This simple browser add-on for Gmail is my secret weapon and has drastically improved my ability to follow through. Essentially, it lets you schedule messages to pop back into your inbox at some predetermined time or date. This is great for messages that you need to act on at some point in the future but not right now. It also lets you schedule these “boomerangs” for messages you are sending. You can even select to have messages only return to your inbox if they didn’t receive a reply.
Boomerang can also be used to schedule messages that you compose now but want sent at some future time. You can even make these messages recur—great for those birthday greetings or staff meeting reminders.
For more info on Boomerang for Gmail, go to boomeranggmail.com. They have a great video demonstrating these features.
I like to create multiple calendars based on various aspects of my work life and business life. I have personal calendars, a calendar for my kids’ activities, a calendar for my wife’s activities, a private work calendar and multiple calendars for various aspects of our business—one for office personnel, one for sales and promotions, one for floor staff and so on. The beauty of Google Calendars is you can see multiple calendars in a single screen.
When I have a time-sensitive, important or recurring task, I schedule it on the appropriate calendar. (If it’s a recurring task, I set the recurrence schedule when creating the event.) I then select the option to have the Calendar email me at a custom time period before the event.
Google Drive is a great tool for sharing documents, spreadsheets, presentations and other files among your team. You can adjust the privacy tools as needed. It can be set so that only you can view it, or you can make documents accessible to certain people or everyone on staff. More than anything else, it will help keep you and your people on the same page.
Using these tools has helped me increase my productivity while restoring what’s left of my sanity. I hope they do the same for you.