KBB Collective | The Designers' Corner

Jun 18 2010

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Business productivity: the virtues of Gmail


It appears to me that talking about productivity on K+BB is a good fit for me. I have always enjoyed sharing information with my peers, and this particular subject (productivity) has always been of great interest to me. I hope I can contribute to the adoption of some small efficiencies in your businesses. Today I’d like to talk about the efficiencies of using Gmail for business email.

I found myself using Gmail more frequently over time for personal email a few years back. The top reason is very simple: It’s web-based, end of story. Wherever I am, with smart phone or computer, my email is with me. I, as many of you, started with a Gmail address. When Outlook wasn’t working for me very well, I decided to look into Gmail via Google Apps. I was really liking the many smart functions of Gmail. I made the switch from Outlook to Google Apps for one reason: I can use my own domain name as my address (it does not have to be @gmail.com. I use: susan@susanserraassociates.com. Google Apps uses the identical Gmail framework for email, but personal domain names are permitted. Problem solved.

Gmail’s labels and filters make organization easy. I use labels, which essentially serve as folders on the side of your Gmail page. You can also think of labels as “tags” that identify an email and serve the function of grouping other emails with the same identifier, or label, in one place. Labels are another way to use Gmail’s powerful search function. Rather than doing a global Gmail search, just go to the designated label in the sidebar.

Set up a “filter” to act as an instruction to the email and when your client emails you, a particular label can be automatically attached to the email. All you have to do then is read the email, reply and archive it. Get it out of your inbox! The email will appear again in your inbox if there is a response to your email. In addition to using filters to apply labels to an incoming email based on a particular word, such as “KBIS” or a client name, I use filters to direct these and other labelled emails to having certain “behaviors” within my inbox.

Having just labelled and filtered 50+ newsletters that I receive, my inbox is now far more organized, as these newsletters bypass my inbox and go straight to the label “newsletters.” I then peruse the newsletter label once a day. Likewise, all of my Google alerts bypass my inbox; however, I look at the alerts daily when I click on the label “Google Alerts.” The more I label and filter, the more my inbox shows truly important emails from real people and is highly functional.

One of my most favorite features of Gmail/Google Apps email is to have multiple inboxes created. I use multiple inboxes via a setting in the “labs” area of Gmail—a place where some very funky and useful Gmail add-ons reside. Essentially, I am looking at 5 inboxes at once:

1. one main inbox
2. one inbox with Facebook messages only
3. one inbox with phone messages only
4. one inbox with Twitter messages only
5. one inbox with my blog’s comments emailed to me

Since my business phone line is an internet line, I have the option to have my phone messages emailed to me. Wherever I am, I can check my phone messages. Awesome and organized. Look at all of the other lab features. One of my favorites is “email undo” which allows me to have 20 seconds in which to undo the email I just sent. It’s very helpful, for example, if I realize I forgot to add necessary information or wish to make other changes.

The last theory I subscribe to is the inbox NOT being used as a task program. Task programs (just Google task management programs for lots of web-based programs) do a superb job at managing tasks. Many of these programs have a feature that allows an email to be sent to the (web-based) task program, which can then be further managed once there. The advantage is the useful manipulation and management of a critical email within a task management program that cannot be done, of course, in an inbox.

The most important advantage of labels, filters, multiple inboxes and sending emails to task management systems is this: a much less populated inbox, meant to hold emails for the short term only.

Would love to hear your tips for email!

Susan Serra

This entry was posted on Friday, June 18th, 2010 at 6:00 AM and is filed under Business. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.