Stop Making It About You

I was at a site and immediately presented with a pop-up advertisement. It felt like it was a slight rite of passage to getting to the good stuff – the content I cared about reading.

Was that banner about me or about that company? Why couldn’t the substance of the content itself start and grow the relationship instead?

I wonder if the marketer that put the ad out there likes such interruptions when they are online trying to learn or grow their understanding.

It’s typical. They aren’t thinking about how it makes themselves feel. They are thinking about what they want and hope will happen. Maybe if they annoy ten thousand people like myself then two will click it. Maybe if they make the gimmick a bit more foolproof, I will accidentally click and they can pat themselves on the back for the metric.

Stop making it about you. We don’t want to be sold. I’ll find a way around the annoyance otherwise to the real stuff.

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?


Gmail Search Trumps Labels

In our Google Apps consulting, we often transition organizations from a platform like Microsoft Outlook or client applications like Apple Mail or the numerous other email programs out there.  It is not atypical for users to find the transition to the Gmail interface less appealing.  After all, they were used to a user interface that they likely used for ten years.

The use of folders to drag and drop emails to manage your inbound information can help to create some order in the daily barrage.  However, it is slow.  Think about these things:

  • The steps it takes to move an email
  • How often you look inside those folders
  • The myriad amount of folders you have to scroll down to
  • The steps to create folders and manage them

Is there truly a return on investment?  Do you save every web page you visit in a catalogued approach?  Perhaps some overly maniacal and obsessive types do.  However, when you want something, you know you can find it because of search.  You use search to find what you are focused on.  You depend on strong search capabilities which are a given today.  This allows you to free up the time for organization for more productive pursuits.

In Gmail, you can use Labels, which are tags on emails similar to folders in Outlook.  It is a compromise for those that are used to the idea of folders.  It’s a feel good.

If you are processing hundreds of emails a day and thousands a month, how about abandoning organization and depend on search.  When you want something, simply find it.

It is one of the core powerful assets of Google Apps mail.  You can find what you are looking for.  Your brain relates information and with simple search, you can Google your email.  Save as much as you think you may need and free yourself from having to put email in its place.  Just make it available for search.

In the end, you will move faster with less drag on your productivity.  While others are fiddling with their folders, you can focus on getting things done.

What keeps you from going with this productivity strategy?


Faster Gmail Productivity

Your Google Apps system should be your slave, not your master.  If technology overruns your life, then you are continually at its mercy when interruptions bombard your work day.  The easy interface of Google Apps Mail and speed of processing allows you to move quickly in and out of your email.

The technology is not enough, however.  The habits and systems you develop for yourself will help increase your productivity.  Here are some tips for helping you move quicker through your days that I use and advise my clients to implement for higher levels of success:

  • Stay on the keyboard. You can use shortcut keys and move much fasterthan with point and click.  See if you can move through your email with only keyboard clicks.  Here are some key ones:
    • CTRL+J: Next
    • CTRL+K: Previous
    • e: Archive
    • #: Delete
    • s: Star (for action)
    • r: Reply
    • f: Forward
  • Set up your messages to auto-advance. When you process a message, the next one should automatically come up to save an extra click.
  • Make one of three decisions:
    1. Delete (the majority)
    2. Archive (to save and search later if needed)
    3. Act (use Stars to act later)
  • Check your email separately.  Keeping it on all day relegates you to hyper-responsive mode.  Protect your focus and process your emails hourly or at set times.
  • Set filters. For emails you can read later, create a filter rule to label the inbound email and skip the inbox.  For predictable responses, create a respective filter rule.

Your work is email, but your life does not have to be.  Using a few simple strategies should help you focus on actions and decisions which is the point of email.  It needs to be quickly moved to one of these 2 things and not disrupt the important work you have to accomplish in your other ongoing projects.

Which of these will help you move faster?

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 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: (i.e., 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: (i.e., 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: (i.e., 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?


Searching In Google Apps

Search is the way to organize.  We don’t organize the web.  We search.  The web is organic.  Every day, it continues to grow.  The job of Google is to index the web and present it in an organized fashion when you are ready to find something.  This is necessary since the information overload of the web requires effective filtering.

Search In Your Content

You can’t control the amount of information as you once did coming into your life.  The inputs are large.  Email, appointments, content, and documents are continually growing.  You want to keep this information because it constitutes your ongoing knowledge base.

Thus, the power of Google search is strategic for managing a large amount of information.  You are not spending useless cycles organizing.  Organization happens when it matters – when you are looking for something.

The beauty of Google Apps is the core structure centered around search, Google’s primary technology.  This affords you the opportunity to be more productive on the front end of your knowledge work.  Instead of intaking information and organizing, you can intake and save it without thought.  When you want to find it, search enables you to access what you need just in time.

Breaking From The Old

I grew up, like you did, in the old economy.  We used things like Microsoft Outlook and a filing system.  Use things enough and they become a comfort zone.  We don’t realize we are driving in the slow lane after a while.  We are thinking relative, not absolute.

What is absolute is that those that could care less about how things used to be done, pass everyone by in productivity, collaboration and execution.  They are on a system which is intuitive and maps to the realities of the fast-paced information world we live in.  New players use Google Apps.  They don’t inquire or set up old software systems which slow them down.

Old players stay with what is comfortable until competition or crisis exposes them.  The irony is that old players search every day when they want something.  This may not be an obvious transferrable opportunity to their work.

If you want to go faster, break from the old.  Adopt the tools for how to handle information today quickly.  Google Apps is built for speed because it is predicated on search.  Search matters when you are looking for things in real-time.  This underlying technology completely changes the game for an organization committed to productivity increases.

How have you found filing to be beneficial today compared to before?  Does search make sense for your workflow?

Extending Google Apps Mail With Gadgets

Gadgets within the Google Apps Gmail area allow for further customizing your workspace.  Typically, knowledge workers will work within email.  The less you have to move from this area, the better.  You can structure your interface as a central dashboard to other data as well using gadgets.

Adding Gadgets By URL

Gadgets are a Labs feature.  Thus, the feature must be enabled by simply going to the Settings -> Labs area and enabling:

This will provide a new submenu within the Settings area.  You can now add gadgets which are provided by third parties or Google by the respective url.  This will place them on the left side of your Gmail area:


Suggestions To Extend Gmail

You can search quickly to find developers that have provided tools to extend your setup. has five recommendations here.

I have a few which are great everyday tools:

  1. url shortener is great for posting to social media.
  2. Monitor Twitter feeds here to help you stay in tune with the feeds for Twitter as you are working.
  3. The SMS in Chat gadget within Google Labs can be enabled.  It is great for sending text messages to mobile phones from your desktop.

Search the web and you can find a variety of others.  If it is not useful, it can be discarded.  The goal is to keep your workspace streamlined and eliminate mouse-clicks and wasteful movements.

Each gadget can be typically tested for a week to see if it is worthwhile and integrates into your daily workflow.  Replace it if you find that you do not go to it often for content or using the tool for its purpose.

Keep productive by extending your central productivity area, your email in Google Apps.  As you structure your interface by moving things around, you will have a dashboard to operate from efficiently.

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.