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Copyrights probably forbid me from adding the lyrics, but I’m sure if I use the phrase “Let it Go” and suggest you think about recent Disney movies — well the song will be stuck in your head (see below).
I’ve written about outsourcing in the past (see Related Articles), but I think this is a good time for areview.
Today we’ll talk about why to outsource, next time we’ll talk about finding good people to work with, and after that, we’ll talk about costs.
Most of my readers are busy solopreneurs or small business owners, and most of then can define their life using one word — BUSY!!!
I know the feeling. Somewhat overwhelmed, somewhat confused (what do I do NEXT).
An email in box seems innocent enough. It’s just bits and bytes in a digital format that you look at a few times a day to see if anything important has popped up.
- BUT — did you ever open your inbox and realize that you haven’t really cleaned it in a while (like years)?
- Did you ever open your inbox and realize you have no clue how to prioritize, not the 50 new messages you’ve received today, but the 50 new messages you’ve received today plus the 50 new you’ve received each day for the last 50 days?
Sometimes it’s hard to figure out how to muddle through way too many messages.
One idea (developed by Merlin Mann) that has taken hold over the past few years is Inbox Zero:
Inbox Zero is a rigorous approach to email management aimed at keeping the inbox empty — or almost empty — at all times. Inbox Zero was developed by productivity expert Merlin Mann.
- Limit the time you spend reading email. Check email a few times a day (for longer periods of time) instead of many times a day. Perhaps pick 3 or 4 times a day you’ll just muddle through your mail instead of checking every 5 minutes. (Though I’ll admit to doing that at times – perhaps if a friend has run off to the hospital because a new grand-baby is about to appear).
- Turn off notifications. Even if you don’t instantly jump to check what’s happening when you hear a “ding” or a “buzz,” you are still slightly distracted by it.
- Your Inbox is NOT your To-Do list. You can make a separate folder for ToDo – or “Items Needing Action,” but don’t keep these “front and center”
- Touch it once. Many organizational gurus suggest “touching it once” for paper that comes into your home (file it or toss it or act on it). The same works for electronic communication. Look at it and decide where it needs to go. If it’s something that needs to go on your schedule, put it on your calendar and delete the email.
- User folders. Using filters you can create folders, and send mail from certain parties directly to a folder. In Gmail (and I assume in other email applications), if you have a folder with something “new” in it, you can look at it when you have the time.
- Don’t use folders. One suggestion I’ve run across is to only use “inbox,” “trash,” “draft,” “sent,” and “archive.” With current search engines, you’re often able to find a message if you can use the proper search parameters.
(Yes – I know that’s the exact opposite of what I said above – but your mileage may vary on any of these points, so take what works and leave the rest).
- Make subject lines clear. This helps if you’re looking for something later, because it makes things easier to identify.
- PICK UP THE PHONE. Sometimes you can be more productive by spending a few minutes talking to someone than going back and forth by email.
- Print – or print to PDF. For myself, for information I need to retain from clients, I will “print” an email to PDF, and save the email in my client folder. Sometimes that’s the best place for me to find it.
- Kill ’em while you’re killing time. Two years ago Gmail rolled out the tabs. (I wrote this at the time about the Gmail changes). I love the “new” (is it “new” if it’s two years old?) Gmail tabs, but sometimes I ignore things in my tabs. Sometimes you really need to go through and remove things, but this is great use for down time, for instance while you’re in the cell phone lot at the airport or while you’re waiting in line at the DMV.
- Inbox Zero action based email (The original 43 Folders Series). Merlin Mann (43folders.com)
(NO — I have not read all 17 (or so) articles attached to this.)
- Taming email communications – part 1. Michael Keithley (gtdforcios.com)
- Taming email communications – part 2. Michael Keithley (gtdforcios.com)
- Taming email communications – part 3. Michael Keithley (gtdforcios.com)
- 5 Tricks to Finally Achieve Inbox Zero. Zoe Fox (mashable.com)
- Q&A The Gmail changes. Mary Wu (marywuva.com)In the interest of equal time …
- 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Aim for Inbox Zero. Natasha Burton, Levo League (fastcompany.com)
Tuesday Tip – New Gmail features
- Emojis (cute – but not necessary)
- No More Attachment Limits (well – it’s a Google Drive integration)
- Pinterest in your Inbox (which I haven’t played with yet – but it sounds like it would be great for visual people)
- New Google Contacts (which MERGES contacts so you can have ALL of someone’s information in ONE file – instead of duplicates – I’ve used it to clean my contact list)
- Revert to Old Chat (instead of Hangout — YAY – sometimes I’m just not up for visual conversation)
And last (on my list, not theirs) but NOT least,
- UNDO SENT EMAILS a 30-second window in which to recall an email. (Not that I’ve EVER noticed a tyop two laet)
- What’s New in Good Old Gmail? 5 Features You Should Check Out. Mihir Patkar (makeuseof.com)
- Gmail On The Web Gets Undo Send Feature (geeky-gadgets.com)
- 10 Highly Useful Gmail Lab Features You Should Enable Today (technorms.com)
- This Gmail Function Could Save Your Job (nbcnews.com)
Tuesday Tip – “Do Not Disturb”
- Gmail Just Hit a Pretty Major Milestone (time.com)
- 17 Life-Changing Ways to up your Gmail Game. Nicole Nguyen (buzzfeed.com)
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
In looking through my posting history, it does seem that some of my short tip posts are in praise of certain apps. I don’t mind being the person that tries things out so my readers can find out what works.
Longtime readers might have noticed that I tend to have a pretty high rate of use of Google apps (and — HELLO — FREE!!) I use Google calendar and Google Docs and Gmail, and often I’m one of the first people to adopt anything new coming out of Google.
But one frustration I’ve had with Gmail, (not enough of a frustration to CHANGE my email but a frustration nonetheless), is the inability to schedule mail.
Boomerang for Gmail was developed by Baydin and it gives you the ability to:
- Schedule an email
- “Boomerang” a message for later
(for example, “resend” you a message the day before a meeting)
- Track Responses
- Schedule recurring emails.
- Request read receipts and track clicks.
- Manage scheduled messages
This is also available for phones, but after reading the reviews (and that it slowed down mail loading), I’ve decided that I’m going to keep it on my desktop, where I do the majority of my email.
There are quite a few books and systems in place for handling the paper tiger in your home or office*, (flylady.net is an excellent resource), but sometimes the “paper” is an overflowing e-mail box. I’ve discovered (through trial and error and error and error) that it’s easier to keep a handle on email than to GET a handle on email.
- Schedule. As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, schedule when you read your mail. If you are reading at a time that you are able to give 100% of your attention to your mail, you can go through your mail with fewer distractions.
- Prioritize. Determine what needs to be taken care of immediately and what can wait until later. If you have something that you’re not ready to sort, you can having a “holding” folder outside of your inbox (for instance, a “todo” folder).
Presort. You can “presort” your mail before you read it. This can be done using filters or making use of the priority inbox on the Google Gmail tabs (see “Related Articles” for my article about using Gmail tabs to sort mail.)
Post sort. Many people use files to tame their “paper” tigers. You can also use files to tame your e-tigers. For example, I have files for each of my clients, and all of their mail goes into their file. If I need to find something, all I need to do is to go into their file. I also have a file for any online purchases I make (I can put order confirmations and shipping notifications in this file).
- Trash. If you no longer have a need for an email, dispose of it. It will give you one less message to pass over if you’re looking somewhere else. Sometimes I’ll go through one of my Gmail tabs and delete items when I’m waiting in a line or at a doctor’s office.
- Send it somewhere else. I know some people that tame their email by make sure that anything that can be ignored goes to one address. This is a good place for sign in forms, sweepstakes, or drawings. This is often used for mail that does not need to be checked on a regular basis but can be checked every week (or every month).
Q&A The Gmail Changes. Mary Wu (marywuva.com)
*My oldest child is a high school junior who has taken the SAT. We don’t have a paper tiger, we have an entire herd of paper elephants in the form of marketing materials from various colleges. I wonder if insurance companies should consider increasing fire insurance rates for anyone with a 17 year old.
**It’s just like laundry. You wouldn’t put all your whites clothes with your red clothes with your dry cleaning. And when you’re done, you fold the towels together, match the socks and sort them by family member, and hang the blouses.
One thing many people struggle with is an overflow of incoming information. We have email (and sometimes multiple email accounts), phone calls, texts, tweets, and Facebook notifications coming at us from all directions. Sometimes it’s hard to filter out the flow of information. What can you do to prevent feeling overwhelmed?
Here are a few tips:
1. Prioritize. Determine who may need to urgently contact you, and set up a way that you can receive their information. For me, if I’m married to you, have given birth to you, or adopted you (or if you’re caring for one of the above), I will answer your calls. This means that my husband and children have very specific ringtones and the school nurse line has a specific ringtone. Other calls can (and often do) go to voicemail.
2. Turn it OFF. I’m fairly certain the default for everything on my Android phone is to have really irritating notifications turned on. This might not be true but I was noticing that I would often get rings and beeps and vibrates for many reasons during the day. I went through my settings and turned off notifications on most items that I did not deem important.
3. Schedule. There are certain times of the day that I focus on certain platforms. For example, I check email at 9, noon, and 3. I’m not distracted by email at other times (unless I’m waiting for information from a client), and when I’m checking email, that’s the only thing I’m focused on.
4. Get rid of it. (Thanks to Heartbleed.) When the Heartbleed bug caused us to need to change all our passwords, I had some issues with bringing certain things up on my phone. I found this to be a fortunate circumstance, as I discovered that I could actually manage without instant access to certain email accounts. I find some things are really best handled on my desktop computer instead of my phone.
The other thing that we have to allow ourselves and others is some breathing space. If I haven’t heard from someone in 24-48 hours, then I can bug them again. We tend to have an expectation of immediate responses, but (provided none of us are ER doctors) most things can wait.
Is Your Smartphone Making You Stupid? Kathy Colaiacovo. (timeontaskva.com)
(If I were to go where the weather suits my clothes, I’d have to go someplace where I could wear Birkenstock sandals year round).
Every month I will be doing a posting on timely tips and tricks. For the most part, these will be guided by the questions I run across from clients or while networking. In other words, if I have to dig out information, I’ll pass it along instead of having others need to look up the same information.
Scheduling multiple people. Okay — first I have to admit that I didn’t find this on my own. I found it on the blog at barrymoltz.com. Doodle is an easy scheduler. You create a poll, invite participants, and then confirm the date and time that the most people are available. Instead of having multiple emails flying back and forth, you can get all of the information in one place. And it’s free. The only question I have is, “Where was this when I was trying to arrange meetings for multiple professors when I worked at the University of Illinois?”
Emailing multiple people. Every now and then you’ll want to send the same email to more than one person. Some email programs allow you to do this automagically, but Google doesn’t have a “mail merge” button (like Microsoft Access does). However, if you know where to look, Google does have a way to do mail merge. This 8-minute video gives a clear step-by-step how to. (Thank you Anson Alexander).
Limit your reading time. There are quite a few blogs that I follow. I get resourceful and timely productivity tips from Evie Burke at One Insight Closer. As mentioned above, I find useful information at Barry Moltz’s blog. It would be nearly impossible to keep up with the social media industry without reading Social Media Examiner. There are others. But I do not have time to visit all the blogs I read every day. I do spend a few hours a week checking all the postings by using Feedly. It took a bit of organizing to group the information I read into different categories, but now I can take a few minutes to an hour with a cup of coffee and read all of my news or short bits of it.
Comparing email Services. There are many email service providers out there. I have used MailChimp and AWeber, but those are the only ones I have first hand experience with. I found this article from April 2013 (before the MailChimp change) that describes some of the providers.
“E-troducing” people. One way to be known as a person that is a valuable resource is to help connect people. You may often meet someone that you think would be a great client, provider, or power partner for another person (for instance, a realtor and a mortgage broker). I spent some time struggling with the right “formula” for doing email introductions. One day I decided that I was going to write a template for doing introductions, but (as I often do when trying to figure something out) I wondered if someone had already done this. I did a search and found a great article on the Forbes site about email introductions.
Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Doodle Saves Time (barrymoltz.com)
Create a Mail Merge with Gmail and Google Drive / Docs (YouTube.com)
Comparing email services: Aweber, iContact, ConstantContact, MailChimp, and MadMimi (changetheworldmarketing.com)
How to make the perfect email introduction (forbes.com)
Every month I will be doing a posting on timely tips and tricks.
It’s back to school time. I know people who recently started, some that are starting in a few weeks, and mine are going back next week. But what does this mean for you as a small business owner, entrepreneur, or coach?
$ALES$ That’s right, even if you don’t have kids, or your kids are well before or past the age of school, you can still take advantage of all those school supplies being on sale. You might not think that you need crayons but all those things that you need for your office are on sale. For example, mini staplers that can fit into a middle school locker can also fit in a purse or briefcase. Yesterday I grabbed some notebooks so that when I need to give a client a printout of a report or action plan, I can do so in an organized manner. Unless you have a locked office I’m willing to bet that sometimes your pens wander off your desk.* I plan to hit Target this week with both the family credit card and the business credit card in my pocket.
Sharing contact information for business partners. Did you know you can send someone’s contact to someone else if you have his or her cell phone number? Two different ways I’ve discovered to do this on my Android device are through the “message” app and through the “contact” app. In the “message” app (where you would normally send and receive text messages,) type in the name or the number where you’d like to send the contact. On the side (where you have the “send” arrow,) there is an “attach” (paperclip) button. Click on the paperclip and choose contacts. Search for the contact you wish to send and then select that contact, click “done,” and send the contact. Another option would be to go into your “contact” list, choose a contact, go to the “menu” and click “share namecard via,” choose messaging (or email or the best option), then (if you’ve chosen messaging) enter the name of the recipient. You should be carrying business cards of your power partners with you; but when you don’t have them, this is another way to easily share their information.
Just ask for help. The other day someone asked me how to do something. I didn’t know but told her I’d look into it. For this particular issue, I was fairly certain that someone on my personal Facebook page would know (I tend to know a few geeks.) So I posted the request to Facebook and had an answer within a few hours. I’ve also been known to post questions to virtual assistant groups or other groups I’m in.
Just give help. Last week at a networking event I was near a woman who asked a question about business cards (which was touched on in two of my earlier posts). When I got home, I sent her my posts on business card organization, both part 1 and part 2. Later that week I ran into her at (yet another) networking event whereupon she gave a rather complementary testimonial on how helpful and organized I was. This was well worth the 10 minutes of my time it took to send out an email with some links.
What are your favorite tips and tricks? Please share in the comments.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.
*In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams has a theory that ballpoint pens slip off to their own planet and live (the ballpoint pen equivalent of) the good life. For their sake, I hope it’s true, because the ballpoints never stay on my desk.
Then I started reading emails and talking to people and found that, for some people, it’s a bit more complex than that. At a networking group I go to a coach was concerned about her newsletter distribution, so while I was preparing to send information to her, I decided to create a blog post.
If you liked Gmail before
If you want *YOUR* Gmail to be as it was before the change:
- Open Gmail.
- Click on the gear in the top right and select settings.
- Select the Inbox tab.
- In the Inbox type section deselect all the categories to go back to your old inbox.
(I grabbed this straight from the Google support website).
If you have subscribers
If you have a mailing list and are concerned people won’t find you because your mail now appears under the Promotions tab.
If the receivers (your subscribers) want your mail to go directly to their inbox.
- In Gmail, click on the promotions tab.
- Hover over the mail you want moved.
- Click and drag on your mouse, and move the mail to the desired tab.
- At the top of the screen you will get a message that looks something like this:
The conversation has been moved to “Primary”. Undo
“Do this for future messages from email@example.com?” Yes
- Click “Yes” in the popup message box to have all future messages appear in the desired tab.
- In Gmail, click on the promotions tab.
- Right click on an email that you’d like to move.
- Hover over “move to tab” then hover over “primary” (or other desired tab).
- At the top of the screen you will get a message:
The conversation has been moved to “Primary”. Undo
“Do this for future messages from firstname.lastname@example.org?” Yes
- Click “Yes” at the top of screen to have all future messages appear in your primary inbox.
Of course, if you’re sending information to your email list using a service like AWeber or MailChimp, the mail will likely end up in your subscriber’s promotions area, so you might have to send out individual emails for this step. If you do send out individual emails, you’ll only need to be concerned with people that have gmail.com addresses.
Another way to contact your newsletter subscribers is to post to any social networks (Facebook, Google+, Twitter). In addition to this post, you can share a video that Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner made this YouTube video describing Gmail tabs.
Personally, I’ve found that I actually like the new tabs. I find it more convenient than using filters. So I have removed all my filters and let Gmail do the sorting. I’ve taken a few very items that were sorted and forced them into my “Primary” tab (client’s and colleagues newsletters and my mail from my mom’s group) but other than the things I deem important, most of the other tabs can be looked at once every day or two.
And, hey, if a promotion is over a week old, it’s probably time for it to hit the Trash. There’s something very satisfying about putting mail in trash.
When I was researching this blog post, I found this article from NYMAG that had a (short) history of what email used to look like. This article gave me an urge to dig a little deeper (I have 10 minutes before my next appointment) to find some statistics. For anyone as old as me (or a bit geekier) I bring you this tidbit. When it was closed down in 1989, ihnp4 had a capacity of 50 MG /day UUCP traffic.
So for me, I’ll take the Gmail changes as they are. Like Dylan said, “The times they are a changin’.”