4 Google Apps System Review Tips

A team working in Google Apps is comprised of a bunch of individuals. The advantage of Google Apps is that everyone is collaborating and executing within one system. However, over time, each user may not be using the system in the most efficient or ideal way for the highest levels of success.

Knowledge work comes at us fast and furious. As business cycles naturally slow, you can take the time to review best practices for your Google Apps system to increase each user’s adoption. Here are a few items which are worthy of review:

  1. Keeping a zero inbox. Help users adopt shortcut keys and develop the habit of a zeroinbox mentality. They can move their email to action quickly and keep their mind free to be ready for whatever is coming at them. Furthermore, this avoids clutter.
  2. Collaborate in Google Docs. If users are keeping documents locally rather than in the cloud, show them the steps and benefits for uploading and creating Google Docs. They can easily share and modify documents in real-time with other team members to ensure there is a relevant and fresh library for ongoing use.
  3. Sharing knowledge in Google Sites. If people are keeping information for themselves, they are depriving the overall team of their value. Knowledge sharing in a Google Site which is searchable and a repository for best practices, FAQ’s and specific problem solving saves cycles for problem solving and serving your customers. Drive the behavior if it has been lost or start it anew if it needs to be started.
  4. Working in real-time. Demonstrate use cases for Google Chat and mobile device usage. Provide guidelines for etiquette and how to work collaboratively wherever and whenever a person is working. This helps for problem-solving issues as they happen and driving team dynamics.

You may have launched your system with the right training and expectations. However, over time, users may fall into their own habits. Reviewing best practices for your organization after users have become familiar can align your team to desired behaviors and increase your productivity. Fill the gaps and use natural business cycles to drive further adoption.

How can these tips help your team?


Google Apps Is About Actions

Collaboration is great, however, it is a means, not an end.  Action is what matters.  As knowledge workers, we have to work at light speed because the people who interact with us every day push work on us easily.  We are bombarded with email, content, projects and other forms of ambiguity.

If you can convert information into action quickly, then you move the ball forward in the value chain.  Everything has to convert to action and the speed by which you do this will determine your value in your world.

Here are some ways to be action-oriented in your use of Google Apps and drive execution:

  1. Filter the noise. Differentiate your inbox between what is non-actionable and actionable content.  Anything that is not actionable, archive it or delete it.  Do it quickly.  It becomes an obstacle to action.
  2. Think Next Steps. Always ask, what is the next step.  If you see a threaded conversation continue, be sure to break out the actions by asking, “What is the next step?”  Get concrete and become a master at converting concepts to action.
  3. Delegate with follow-up. You may have to set actions for others.  Be sure to follow up.  Keep a copy in a special label in your email and use this to check back on your requests.
  4. Set Appointments. If you need to set time and space for dialogue or making something happen, convert a dialogue into a calendar event quickly within your threaded communications.  This moves it off of vague back and forth conversations to a place where you can drive focused dialogue.
  5. Capture Tasks Everywhere. Google Tasks should be accessible from your mobile device or any browser.  If you think of something as it crosses your mind, capture it and quickly get it into your task list.  This clears your mind and helps set you up for the next task.  Take the extra step of using a verb to start the action.  It forces clarity on your next step.

You have to determine what the next steps are.  Google Apps enables  you to move fast within this process if you are shaping your thinking and behaviors to align to action.

The pace of knowledge work will only increase.  Your ability to focus and get work done is critical and using Google Apps around this working framework will make the most of this system.

What do you think?  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?


Are You In The Email Business?

Managing a server for your email puts you in the email business.  You have to update, maintain and support any and all issues.  If you have headcount dedicated to this most basic of business functions, then the overhead and cost you are absorbing for no better reason than comfort may need to be reevaluated.

Cloud computing affords your business the opportunity to outsource technologies which quickly obsolesce.  Email should not be a focus of your business.  It should just work and help you to move fast.

Every day, you have hundreds of emails to get through.  You want to connect with your team and be able to access past information quickly.  Having this kind of access, convenience and speed should be inherent in your email.

Being in the email business is a drag on your business.  Having to set procedures for setting up new employees with multiple steps and software is cumbersome.  Google Apps allows you to build your business quickly and work remotely with a workforce distributed across the country or globe.  The hassles of software on both a server and desktop level are gone.

At the end of the day, our work as knowledge workers is email.  However, our business need not be.  Our business should be about getting things done and focusing on more important matters.  Being stuck in old ways can mean lost opportunity, productivity and cost for your business.

What would a cloud computing strategy do for your business?


4 Google Apps Mail Filters For Productivity

As you have information coming into your desperate world, you can exert more control of your inputs with Google Apps.  Gmail filters allow you to create automation with simple logic steps.  Increase your speed and productivity by implementing these Google Apps filters.

1. Create Instant Tasks

Within your Gmail system, you can set a filter for creating tasks.  This is done by sending yourself an email from your Gmail account within your browser or your mobile device.  Your email alias can be appended with the “+” symbol and a tag.  This tag can be used as part of the logic you build in your Gmail filter.

Thus, if you use starred items as your ongoing task list, then the filter can be set up as:

Any matches To: alias+tasks@yourdomain.com (i.e., don+tasks@inbox.com) should be starred and Skip The Inbox.

Your email with the respective prescribed alias enacts the filter rules.

2. Store And Recall Quotes

Quotes create motivation and are powerful for helping others, presenting in speaking or sales and thinking about your strategies.  Create a filter which stores valuable quotes in your Gmail system.  Simply set the following filter:

Any matches To: alias+quotes@yourdomain.com (i.e., don+quotes@inbox.com) should be labeled with “Quotes” and Skip The Inbox.

Now you can select the label for “Quotes” to review any quotes as well as Google search your email for any words or names of authors and speakers to access past quotes instantly from your browser or mobile device in the cloud.

3. Bookmark Web Tools

It is hard to track resources you might be able to use in the future while surfing the web.  Set up another filter for bookmarking your web information by doing the following:

Any matches To: alias+tools@yourdomain.com (i.e., don+tools@inbox.com) should be labeled with “Tools” and Skip The Inbox

You can now access your bookmarked tools with the new label and search to recall what might be needed. Be sure to paste the url in the email you send to yourself and any notes which can become searchable for your recall.

4.  Read Items Later

If you are subscribed to newsletters and website content, you can set up a filter which allows you to read items later to avoid interruption.  This way incoming email will not disrupt.  Simply create a filter for the “From” address of the sender or the title of the subscription emails and apply the label “Read Later” and Skip The Inbox.  This creates a filtered list of emails which you can view in your browser or mobile device in the cloud.

From there, you can remove the label as you read through the content in this filter.

As You Think

Part of productivity is to keep a clear mind and minimize disruptions.  Using Gmail filters allows you to set up the rules which make sense for your life and work.  Use Gmail as your memory and hard drive for information that needs to be stored or dealt with later.  You can access it quickly with search and keep your focus on what is at hand.

Try setting up these filters and sending such emails to yourself as you are out and about on your mobile device.  You have essentially extended your memory to the cloud.

Question: What other filters do you find helpful to minimize disruption and increase speed?


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?


Auto Advance To Next Message After Reading

To increase your productivity in Google Apps mail, be sure to enable the Auto-Advance feature in the Labs tab of Google Apps.  It is listed within the Settings->Labs area:

This will enable a listing in the General Tab.  From there, be sure to choose:

Reading Your Email Fast

You can focus on keeping your zeroinbox by moving through your email quickly by Starring for action, deleting or archiving.  Once you take an action, the next message will appear rather than the default of going back to the inbox and selecting the next message.  The subtle change will increase your processing of the inbound information coming at you.


Email Communications Best Practices Using Groups

Effective inbound email communications can be managed by setting up Google Apps Groups with the right convention.  Your business has many inputs from web forms and email inquiries. Google Apps Groups is a powerful way of ensuring business continuity by distributing communications to the right grouping of people.

Google Apps Strategy For Distributed Communications

Your team members are continually changing jobs, positions and roles. Your business may receive inquiries such as a sales question or a service call. The forms which are present on your various websites typically alert or notify a specific email address. If you simply email to a specific person, you are not accommodating for the likelihood of change which will occur when the person leaves this responsibility.

Google Apps has an email distribution function which is powerful and flexible. As a strategy for business continuity, ensure you have Groups identified based on the functional pieces within your virtual and physical organization. Enroll your Google Apps users into the respective groups which make sense. By doing so, you are able to set up your business systems to communicate with a group which will always be continuous rather than a person which is likely to be discontinuous.

When Google Apps Users Change

As new users assume roles vacated by other users, they can be added to the specific groups you have set up. Thus, fax@yourcompany.com or instanthelp@yourcompany.com can be rerouted quickly based on your inevitable changing business requirements and staffing.

Furthermore, you can extend your organization to include business partners under different domains to be part of alerts, notifications and communications by setting appropriate permission structures within Google Apps Group settings.

Google Apps Consulting Strategy Tip

The important thing is to ensure your organization is set up with continuity in mind. Think in terms of roles and not people. Your Google Apps Groups allow you to redistribute to changing people quickly as you are growing and changing your business.