Lead with Your Calendar Invitations

 

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How are you managing your calendar?

Peter Drucker said it best when it comes to the work we do today, “In knowledge work, the task is not given. It has to be determined.”

We are in a world where there is a lot of information flying around. Sometimes, we are being social. Other times we are trying to get clear.

One of the best leadership habits you can drive to get deals and projects done is to put full attention on a goal. And the way to lead efficiently is to master your online calendar. Make it a leadership tool by setting time and space to have meaningful focused conversations with your prospects, clients and partners.

I use Google Calendars within my Google Apps workflow. Most of the business world either uses Google Apps or Microsoft Outlook. Either one works. The key is to master appointment setting in either scenario.

Here are best practices you can use to stop wasting a lot of energy and time on back and forths and drive decisions with a set aside meeting time:

  • Move from ambiguity. If you find yourself going back and forth in emails and texts, simply say you will send a calendar invitation so you can discuss and make a decision.
  • Write clear subject lines. Put the goal in the Calendar invitation subject. Making it something like “Deal Decision with Don” keeps the focus on the outcome you are wanting and avoids wasting time.
  • Fill in the “Where” field with what is easy. If you have to show something on your desktop then simply use a tool like join.me which also has a Google Chrome extension to auto-fill calendar invitations in an integrated way. Or you can put your phone number or the invitees so you don’t have to remember it. When the calendar event comes up everyone knows where to call. Make it easy so you don’t have to think when the time comes.
  • Write a clear personal note in the Description field. If you are like me and have many meetings, you don’t want to have to think. You are moving fast. Write a clear personal note that informs you and your invitees what the meeting is about and what the goal is. This way you can move from meetings and be oriented to what you want to accomplish. Using numbered lists and goals is also a great way to focus the conversation. Give you and everyone in the invitation what you need to make it a productive time.
  • Add invitees. The mechanism for inviting people is extremely helpful. They can accept, reject or tentatively accept the meeting. This drives commitment to a time to talk. You can avoid inefficient back and forths, especially with a large group of people. Everyone can use the calendar invitation automation to converge on a time that works. Your invitee list will display who has accepted or rejected. You can simply move the meeting to better times accordingly as well.

If you take a few minutes of work to ensure you understand the features of your calendar invitation system it can pay immense business dividends. Effectively, you become a knowledge worker that is leading. You can drive conversations that lead to clarity, deals and opportunities. This is especially critical where there is a large amount of inattention and disorganization.

How can calendar invitations streamline your workflow and productivity? What do you think?

Google Apps And Building A Virtual Organization

Google Apps allows you to grow an organization in the cloud.  Your team can work in a virtual manner apart from the IT headaches of traditional email, calendaring and document management systems.  This is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs and visionaries that understand how the new economy for talent works.

In our Google Apps consulting, we help businesses create the infrastructure and strategies for growth.  Here are some ways you can limit your overhead and drive growth with a virtual organization structure.

  • Recruit and try out new talent.  Set up their Google Apps user account and have prepared documents and access to your knowledge base in Google Sites.  If they work out, share more.  If they don’t then turn off their access.  It is simple to set up and restrict access.
  • Keep connected using Google Chat.  Ensure your Google chat is set up for each new user to connect with relevant people on the team.  It allows for questions to be asked spontaneously and quickly.  Furthermore, you can use video and voice to connect across the globe for meetings and getting to know new team members.  It is also an excellent way to monitor working patterns online.
  • Integrate Mobile devices.  Keep the inbox for new users as well as Chat and Calendar entries in real-time.  As your new team members are mobile, they can keep within reach for important messages.
  • Create an internal blog.  Using your Google Site, you can set up notifications around an internal blog.  Post articles which keep everyone on the same page and builds your culture.  Help communicate priorities and keep everyone on the same page wherever they are located.

Before Google Apps, it was difficult to integrate new team members into your organization.  Physical location was important.  Using the cloud computing platform Google Apps offers enables you to look beyond your four walls and work with talent wherever they may be.  Use these strategies to make collaboration easy around your brand.

Are you using Google Apps for a virtual organization?  How is it working?

4 Google Apps Contacts Tips

Google Apps Contacts helps you to organize the people in your life for doing business or building relationships.  Over time, it has evolved to become more useful while retaining the signature Google simplicity in appearance and experience.

As you grow your use of Google Apps, here are some productivity and collaboration tips to help you with managing the relationships in your world:

  1. Assign Android Starred Contacts.  If you have an Android mobile phone, you can assign people to a group called “Starred In Android.”  This is a quick and accessible list of your Google Contacts that you can scan and keep top of mind for next steps in your business interactions.  Refresh this list weekly to help you keep a prioritized list of people and to touch base to nurture the relationships.
  2. Add Birthdays.  The birthday field can be added to a Contact record.  Your person’s birthday then appears in your Google Apps Calendar.  This allows you to send something special to help them know they are remembered.  An email, Facebook comment or an e-card via Hallmark all work.
  3. Group Contacts For Easy Email Distribution.  You can communicate quickly and easily with Groups.  Add people to their respective groups.  Be sure to BCC the Group distribution list to protect recipients from data mining of their email addresses.  This is also easy for regular Calendar meeting invites when adding Contacts to specific meetings.
  4. Use SMS On Mobile Phone Numbers.  It is easy to work from within your Gmail interface and send an SMS to specific people.  Be sure your Google Voice is also integrated for quick VOIP calls.  You can rely on your keyboard and consolidated workspace this powerful feature integrated into your Google Apps environment.

The people you touch moves the ball forward in your business and life.  Take a bit of extra steps to integrate these practices into your personal workflow to experience easier ways to connect and drive your activities.

How else are you using Google Contacts?  Feel free to comment below.

Google Apps As Part Of Your Website

Google Apps is a powerful suite of web-based applications.  Unlike desktop applications, the documents are web pages.  Thus, they can become strategic in your way to market or service your customers via your organization’s website.

Typically, your website is controlled in a centralized fashion.  This makes change and driving real-time connection difficult.

However, you can partition how your website works from a design and functionality standpoint.  If your CSS is set up to keep a consistent look and feel, you can designate public navbar pages or private pages to contain embedded or linked Google Docs, Sites or Calendars.

Here are some ways to empower your team to update information using Google Apps with your website:

  1. Embed a public calendar of events. Whether you have seminars to promote or key dates for your company, you can have someone manage a Google Calendar from their Google Apps interface.  Embed this on a page and allow this to be bookmarked by your customers and fans.
  2. Sharing Google Spreadsheets. Take a Google Spreadsheet and have a team manage it via collaboration and sharing rules.  Publish this on a site where it is updated.  Keeping a count towards a financial donation goal with a real-time chart or a list of attendees for an upcoming event are a few ideas to use this for.
  3. Embedding Google Presentations. Make your sales presentation or marketing materials self-service and updated.  Your sales and marketing team can manage the content, look and feel of company presentations.  Your website can keep the most up to date copy available on a page.  Customers can access this easily.
  4. Sign up or registrations. These can be managed via the Forms function inside of Google Spreadsheets and embedded on a page on your site.  Your respective Google Spreadsheet will collect any incoming form information creating an easily managed database of registrants.
  5. Share white papers or case studies. Have a hidden page accessible from a form registration.  Allow the hidden page to provide a managed Google Doc with your white papers, case studies or ebooks.  As content is modified or added, it will be consumed as current by your website visitors.

Your website is your touchpoint with the world.  If there are barriers to changing the data, it becomes difficult to keep a fresh connection.  Structure your systems to take advantage of Google Apps intrinsic web platform.  It will allow your team to actively participate in serving your partners and customers.

What are some ways you could use Google Apps for your website?

Google Apps Productivity Trade-Offs

Google Apps has an immense impact on an organization’s ability to collaborate.  In our consulting work with clients, we see the impact of teams that are distributed and the ability for work to move quickly from concepts to action.  There is speed from the inherent search architecture as well as collaboration via Google Mail, Calendar, Docs and Sites.

The ability to manage your team from wherever they want to be located to get work done whether a different office location, coffee shop or their mobile device increases your overall efficiency.  Furthermore, the IT headaches are not present as with a traditional in-house server, VPN, human resource and file storage.  Cloud computing enables you to truly work as a distributed organization.

There are some other trade-offs which are worth mentioning.  They are more a function of process and culture than they are with the Google Apps system itself.

Here are some areas to consider defining process and policies around to ensure productivity is not compromised:

  • Set Google Chat status to avoid interruptions. Interruptions are a productivity killer.  Help your team change their status and respect others’ statuses when they are busy or focused.  Better yet, close out email while working on tasks that require longer periods of focus.  Set guidelines for guarding against interruptions.
  • Set meetings efficiently and decisively. Be sure to establish sharing policies for private or public events.  Then drive your team to set appointments with Google Calendar instead of emailing back and forth with each other or customers and vendors for an appropriate time.  The meeting description should establish the goal and timeframe concretely to avoid wasting time and focus.  For customer meetings, integrated solutions which work with your website can make the experience efficient and easy.
  • Keep your knowledge searchable. Your team’s collective knowledge means that team members have to ask others for answers so they can put together a solution that gets to the goal.  This happens all day during the process of knowledge work.  Taking the ambiguous pieces and delivering results requires cycles.  Minimize those cycles by making your team’s knowledge searchable and logged within a knowledge base system.  This keeps it centralized and accessible without interrupting people or regurgitating answers.
  • Iterate online. If a customer response needs a few people to collaborate, turn an email into a Google Doc and quickly share it with the relevant parties.  Thereafter, you can revise the content and tailor it with your team.  This avoids multiple copies and emails going back and forth.  It’s in one place with revision tracking.
  • Minimize mouse clicks. If you are a student of productivity, you are continually seeking ways to optimize your workflow as well as increase your execution and speed.  Keep finding short routes and minimize the number of mouse clicks with keyboard shortcuts or creative pathways to your solutions.

Being accessible with your team opens up a world of opportunity for collaboration.  However, if you are continually interrupted or spending cycles inefficiently going back and forth on otherwise mundane process, then these best practices infused into your culture will help to preserve productivity.

It will take leadership to shape your culture.  The rewards are a high level of productivity.  Getting things done is what creates excellence in our fast moving economy today.

What are your thoughts?  Feel free to comment below.

 

Google Apps For Your Memory

Trying to keep things in your memory is difficult.  We would like to have pristine environments to work, but the reality is that in the grind, work is messy, fast and relentless.  Yet, when we are getting things done, all of this information is valuable as a log for future reference.  There are times when we need to recall information for a variety of reasons.

What happens when you have instant recall of what you are looking for without having to store it in your brain?  Here are some ways Google Apps can work to keep your valuable information logged:

  1. Relationships. You may not be able to recall someone who contacted you.  Simply search your past emails for a name or topic via a web browser or your mobile device.  Filtering your search will reveal who the person is quickly
  2. Events. There may be a need to find out where you were in the past.  Simply Google your Google Apps Calendar and you will quickly find everything from Event subjects to the details.
  3. Templates. If you have to produce something similar in form with some customizations, you can search your Google Docs to find a past document.  Make a copy and create a new document with modifications.  Again, you can access this via a web browser or your iPad or mobile device.  Your documents are at your fingertips.
  4. Execution.  How your business is to be executed can be created within the context of a powerful knowledge base and site.  Search to find best practices, FAQ’s and answers to technical issues.
  5. People. You need information quickly about a person.  Search your Google Contacts or your past emails.  Your storage of information will surface information for you to connect and make next steps happen with someone.

Saving your information and storing it in the cloud gives you immense power to access past information. Google Search is the foundation of the entire Google Apps system and this can be leveraged within your group collaboration and personal workflow for higher levels of speed and execution.

Your mind has an extension with Google Apps.  Knowledge for action can be quickly accessed.  It is the way to get things done and move the mess of work into focus for action.

Question:  What would it mean if you could recall what you need when you need it?

 


4 Google Apps Productivity Tips

Inbound information will overload you, however, Google Apps is designed for extreme productivity and getting things done quickly.  The cloud computing architecture and responsive interface helps you move through information with ease.

Today, your speed of execution will differentiate you from the masses who move slowly and are less productive.  The contrast is becoming more of a focal point and you will do well to learn behaviors in Google Apps to help you move fast.  Here are four tips for increased productivity:

1. Set Auto-Advance Gmail Inbox Settings

Enable auto-advance as a feature in Gmail.  Your goal is to keep a zero inbox.  Anything that is in your inbox means it has obscure or uncommitted next steps.  Your job is to move it to its next step.  Thus, after opening an email, it will either be deleted (the majority), Starred (deferred) or Archived.  You want to move to the next email after your current email has been processed.  If you had a list of 50 emails, this feature will help you move quickly through the list.

2. Set Calendar Appointment Invitations

One of the actions for a customer or co-workers from an input or conceived next step is to have a meeting.  Organizing meetings with email back and forth is wasteful.  When you need a meeting to drive a group decision, group action or customer appointment, fill in the meeting details within the Google Calendar invitation settings.

This will force the recipients to accept or request a new time.  You are leading with a concrete time, place and context.  Be sure you place the agenda and any online meeting instructions within the description.  People are busy.  They just need to open the calendar during the time of the meeting on their computer or phone to know what to do.

3. Learn Gmail Keyboard Shortcut Keys

The keyboard is faster than the mouse.  While in Gmail, enable the keyboard shortcut keys.  Learn these first few right away and watch how fast you process email through your system:

o = Open Email

r = Reply to current email

f = Forward current email

e = Archive

# = Delete

There are many more you can add a little at a time.  Read here to learn more.  Commit to learning one at a time and watch your productivity increase.

4. Use Google Chat For Your Network

As we are moving fast, we need quick answers.  Be sure that you add your entire team as well as any vital customers and people you work with within your Google Chat directory.

Furthermore, ensure your mobile device has Google Talk live and active.  This allows you to be accessible and to chat instantly from wherever you are at.

As everyone is seeking to solve problems, you may be a vital link in the knowledge chain.  The collective knowledge you carry from access to your network makes moving forward easier with Google Chat on.

Be A Student Of Productivity

There are layers within Google Apps that you can continually integrate into your workflow.  Curiosity about the different tool sets which allow you to go faster will be the secret for continual increases in your personal and team productivity.  Be a student and keep looking to use the available tools to drive speed.  Over time, you will be moving with less friction and higher levels of execution.

What are some productivity tips you have learned?

 


4 Tips For Google Apps Calendar Collaboration

Google Apps Calendar Best Practices

If you only have your schedule to worry about, then your calendaring can be merely personal and a point solution.  However, if you are seeking a high level of collaboration with a team, Google Calendar is extremely powerful for coordinating the changing commitments of daily execution.  Here are four tips which we share from our Google Apps Consulting best practices:

  1. Drive Commitment: We live in the attention economy.  When there is a need for focus to drive actions as a group or make decisions, invite users via Google Calendar.  Avoid the back and forth and lead by using the invite feature to force an Accept or a Decline.  This will nail a time down.
  2. Describe The Outcome: Use the description field for the agenda and meeting outcome.  Lead by numbering what will be discussed and the decisions and actions to come out of it.
  3. Block Time: Your team should be seeing each other’s color-coded calendars.  You can toggle these for viewing.  To ensure your time is respected, block out times you will need not only for meeting commitments but for personal productivity work such as writing an article or working on a project.  This helps others coordinate with you reliably.
  4. Integrate: Your online Google Apps Calendar is a hub.  It is a cloud-based system which can integrate with multiple systems.  Your CRM system, website appointment scheduling, website public pages and your mobile device update with the data in specific ways.  Ensure your team’s systems are strategically integrated to drive syndication quickly.

Using Google Apps Calendar effectively can remove friction from your business processes and focus your team on execution.  Furthermore, it can allow partners and customers to collaborate if you have the right systems setup and processes.  Happy scheduling.


Google Apps Calendar Invitation Notifications

By default, any Google Apps Calendar invitations will be received as an email.  These settings are controlled in the Calendar->Settings->Notifications tab.  Ensure the checkboxes are appropriate for each medium for receiving Calendar invites.  Otherwise, you may have calendar appointments automatically set without accepting them manually based on the default, “Automatically add invitations to my calendar” in the Settings area.

 

Real-Time

There was a time when you could be disconnected. Disconnected meant that a memo was sent and you could respond by another memo. The medium forced behaviors and everyone was bought in.

Once we started going digital, we would sync. Whatever was on our hard drive would be on our little devices we carried.

Mobile took us to another revolution. Everyone is connected all the time. It started with voice, but now, it is with systems. Data in the cloud syncs and updates with wherever you are at.

Real-time information has impacted how malleable we are able to be with communications, scheduling, and knowledge. If there is a change to an event, you can know it wherever you are at. Your teammate at the office can impact your work in the field. Collaboration drives leverage within a team structure.

The teams which operate this way have opportunities to get to clarity faster and execute without hindrances. The team which operates in silos and lagging data systems loses the opportunity to engage in a world of real-time deals, conversations and ultimately, revenue.

Your strategy to be a real-time organization can take shape with a cloud system in Google Apps and enable work to happen anywhere with anyone at anytime. It’s the rules of the new economy.