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Outsourcing: How to “Let it Go”

Outsource Definition Closeup Showing SubcontractingCopyrights 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.Stress. Woman stressed
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).

(more…)

How to clean up your inbox

Mailboxes On Monitors Showing Emails Inbox And Online Communication

Mailboxes On Monitors Showing Emails Inbox And Online Communication

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:

This is probably a great goal to aspire to, but realistically speaking, there are people I know (heck I’m one of them) that might give up on something if it seems unattainable. So I’ve always been about actually DOING 85% instead of procrastinating if I think 100% is too difficult or time consuming.
evie quote
With that in mind, what are some TIPS for attaining Inbox Manageable:
  • 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.
Gain control of your email and don’t let other people prioritize your day.

Tuesday Tip – New Gmail Features

Tuesday Tip – New Gmail features

Anyone that follows this blog knows that I’m a Google Girl – if Google has made it, at some point in time I’ve used it. While it can be difficult to keep track, I try to keep up with what’s new in Gmail, so naturally my GGG (Google Geek Girl) got all excited when I ran across the first article listed in Related Articles below.  The new things discussed (and you can read the article for details) include:
  • 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)

  Related articles:

Tuesday Tip – Do Not Disturb

Bedroom, 3D visualization modern style

Bedroom, 3D visualization modern style

Tuesday Tip – “Do Not Disturb”

 This tip is directed at GMAIL users, but it’s an idea that Outlook users (or anyone using an email service that schedules) can keep in mind.
I’m (somewhat of) a stalker. I don’t necessarily go hunting people down, but I can use tools that I have readily available to find out information about them. Saturday morning I woke up and wanted to send a quick chat message to a client. While doing something else, I noticed that she had been idle for about 3 hours. This was on a Saturday morning, and from doing the math, I could tell that maybe the best form of communication would be something that did NOT pop up in a notification window.
Instead of sending a chat or a text message, I decided my best course of action would be to send something LATER. For those of you that have Gmail, you know there’s not a way to send a message “later” …
ID-10079666OR IS THERE?
You can add Boomerang for Gmail by Baydin to your Gmail. Boomerang will allow you to send emails later, and also to “Boomerang” a mail if you’ve sent it and want to make sure you hear back from the person.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Thursday Tip – App Review

English: Gmail logo

English: Gmail logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

Taming the e-Tiger

Email Envelopes On Screen Showing Emailing Or ContactingIn honor of Administrative Professional’s Week, I’m doing a 5-day series with simple tips. Today we discuss 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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. Sort**:
    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).
  4. 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.
  5. 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).

Related Articles:

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.

 

Everybody’s Talkin’ at Me

Stress. Woman stressedIn honor of Administrative Professional’s week, I’m going to do a 5-day series with simple tips.

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.

Related Articles:

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).