Last week we covered How to Organize Your Gmail Inbox. The secret to organization is to take advantage of three tiers of classification and keep your emails properly sorted. Now that your email is optimized, stop using it!
Yes, if you want to take your productivity to the next level, then learn to utilize all of the tools in your Google toolbox. You have a variety of apps and options at your disposal and they will help you reach maximum efficiency, sans email.
**While many of the settings we'll explore are available on the Gmail mobile app, it's easier to start making changes on the desktop web portal. Most instructions and diagrams will reflect the desktop view with the "Light" theme.
Prioritize Your Time
In Part 1, we learned that nearly half of the average American's work day is spent checking email. Therefore, the key to efficiency is to check it less! Stop reading emails that don't immediately help you reach your goals or meet deadlines.
Mute Group Conversations
Chances are those chain emails that include everyone in the office don't always have pertinent information in every message. While everyone's opinion matters, it might not matter *right now.* If you'd like to review those conversations when you have some down time, you can "mute" them now. Click on the "More" link at the top of the opened message and select "Mute".
All subsequent correspondence in that thread will be archived. Gmail won't add those messages to your inbox. If at some point in the future you need to reference the chain, just search for the subject and the archive will display in the search results.
Schedule Email Time
In How to Balance Accessibility and Productivity, we learned that scheduling your day into task blocks is the key to organization. Allot a certain amount of time for each of your responsibilities including checking email.
For instance, schedule that you'll manage your email from 8:00am-8:30am before starting work, 1:00-1:30pm after lunch, and then 5:30-6:00pm at the end of the day. This way, you can focus on the actual work you need to get done during the other portions of the day.
Turn Off Notifications
If you're truly dedicated to compartmentalizing, you should turn off your email notifications. You won't be tempted or distracted when you're working on other tasks. If you work in an environment that demands quick responses, at least switch your notification setting to only alert for important messages.
Gmail uses the following factors to determine if an email is "important."
- Who you email, and how often you email them
- Which emails you open
- Which emails you reply to
- Keywords that are in emails you usually read
- Which emails you star, archive, or delete
For Desktop: Go to Settings > Notifications and select "Important mail notifications on - Notify me only when an important message arrives in my inbox."
For Mobile iOS: Open the Gmail app > Go to Settings > Select your profile > Under Notifications select "Primary Only" or "None."
For Mobile Android: Open the Gmail app > Select Menu > Scroll to the bottom and select Settings > Select your profile > Under Notifications select "Primary Only" or "None."
Unplug and Disconnect
It's also highly recommended to avoid checking your work-related email at home. Once you're off the clock, use your personal time to relax and engage with loved ones. Studies show that if you can't separate work from home-life, you'll suffer from serious health issues including insomnia, headaches, fatigue, anxiety, and stomach problems. You can't perform at your best if you're not feeling your best!
After you've dedicated short blocks to email management, the next step is to stop using email for scheduling, file sharing and project-management. Technology can do all that for you.
Schedule Like a Boss
If you have a large team and need to schedule a meeting, sending emails back and forth about who is available is not efficient. Technology has streamlined the process of coordinating schedules.
Behold Google Calendar. The scheduling platform is included for free when you create a Gmail account. The Calendar interface offers many different views including day, week and month. You can enter task blocks, email blocks, meetings, deadlines, etc. into the Calendar. Then you can share your calendar with anyone. Your employees can see which times you're available and adjust accordingly.
You can create multiple calendars for different clients or projects, import and export events from other applications, and even set up event reminders. One of the best features is Invitations. If you create an event, you can send invitations to groups and individuals alerting them about the event. You can invite by name, contact list, or email address. The recipients can RSVP and if they attend, the event will then integrate with their Google calendar. In just a few clicks, large groups can coordinate schedules with less email clutter.
Another time-wasting task is sending attachments back and forth. If you need to edit a document that a staff member drafted, there's no need for him or her to manually send you the entire file. You'll have to download the draft and then reupload your edited version. That process is time consuming and uses up twice as much data storage.
Enter . The Docs interface is similar to Microsoft Word and offers the same basic functions. You can either upload an existing document or create a new one. The file can include text, colors, photos, tables etc. The file is stored in the cloud and uses your Google Drive storage.
The core purpose of the tool is to allow multiple people to edit the same file in real time. Each document has a unique URL and you can allow your staff to access the document with custom privacy and permissions. Team members can edit the same document at once and changes are automatically saved. Each revision is saved and you can browse through the history of each version.
Convert to the Cloud
Cloud computing has revolutionized the concept of data storage and almost made storing files locally obsolete. If you need to send large amounts of presentations, photos or videos to your staff, don't use email.
Experience Google Drive. You're allotted 15GB of free cloud storage when you create a Gmail account. Upload and organize your files into folders and then share them with your staff. Team members can download, edit, upload and organize data based on customized permissions. Multiple people can manage the virtual drive without any need for email.
Manage Projects Like A Pro
If you have dozens of projects to track of and several remote workers to manage, sending emails back and forth isn't practical. You'll spend more time sorting than you will actually getting work done. If you want the combined benefits of messaging, scheduling, editing and file sharing all in one convenient place, then opt for a project-management tool.
Platforms like Asana, Trello and BaseCamp, provide dashboards for managers to keep track of projects. You can create projects, assign tasks and deadlines, and upload documents and photos. Keep all correspondence streamlined in one location where everyone (or not everyone based on privileges) can provide updates.
Utilize custom calendars, set reminders, edit tasks and archive completed projects in one, centralized location. Most platforms offer these features at little to no cost. You'll get more done without sending a single email!
All of the tools mentioned are available on mobile devices so you can stay organized on the go. Just remember to compartmentalize work and home life and pace yourself! If you can learn to take advantage of all of the weapons in your arsenal, you can win the battle against email.
If you're an Office 365 user, don't fret! We'll tackle Outlook next week.
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