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.

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?


3 Google Presentation Tips For Your Marketing

Google Docs quickly becomes the mainstay of your marketing materials.  As new information becomes available, you can quickly update previous versions of a document.  This allows for collaboration to continue refining your marketing and sales presentations for your field team.

Google Presentations works like PowerPoint.  Slide decks can be created with graphical backgrounds and transitions to create a visual show for your sales and marketing teams.

Here are 3 tips to help get the most out of using this Google Apps software for your team:

  1. Initiate With Content. Ensure the people on your team that will be delivering the presentation in a speech, sales or marketing setting are the ones that create the content.  They need to feel it is theirs.  Start with a Blank presentation format and have your Google Presentation in the font and size that is desirable.
  2. Collaborate With Graphics. Once the content has been created, share out the Google Presentation with your graphic design team members to create the background and adjust for things such as font coloring, logo placement, etc.  Do not worry about the iterations.  You can track changes via the Google Apps revision history in the respective document.
  3. Use Speaker Notes For Consistency. You can add speaker notes to each slide.  This is visible to the speaker, but not to the viewer.  If the presentation is being given on a monitor or perhaps online in a web meeting, these will help anyone on your team remain congruent with the presentation any other team member would give.

Over time, you should continually refine the presentations so they are current and relevant.  Anyone on your team that has access to the Google Presentation should be able to use it, refine it and help the team make effective use of your new sales or marketing tool.

The strategy should center around these best practices so that all of your content in your Google Docs is optimized and ready for team selling.

What are some ways you use Google Presentations?

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.

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?

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?


Google Apps Marketplace Turbocharges Your Team

The Google Apps Marketplace integrates third-party applications with your team’s core business system.  As your adoption of Google Apps grows and facilitates the speed, collaboration and productivity which cloud computing affords, you have a system which acts as a hub spot.  You can extend functionality and plug in what you need as you realize new requirements to drive your business further with the right tools.

Your Requirements Will Change

As Google Apps Consultants, we work with organizations to implement, customize and adopt a cloud computing strategy.  The process for launching a team typically involves data migration, training, setup and management practices.

As teams mature in their adoption cycle, there are always new requirements which would not be realized earlier.  Cloud computing technologies have a dual benefit of acting not only as functional software in your toolkit, but they also have API‘s, or application programming interfaces, which allow for integration with other software or scripts.

Programming on top of Google Apps opens up possibilities for many more ancillary needs to be met in addition to the core functionality of mail, calendaring, chat, sites and documents.

Plug And Play Marketplace

With a platform and a marketplace, you can anticipate a rich resource to serve you as you continue to push on your business model and processes.  Like buying an iPod, you can find the after market products which enrich your core product experience.

This is a strategy which traditional software systems lack.  The ease of integrating new technologies, trying them out and deciding what fits was not as easy.

There is a momentum effect.  Month over month, you will find new products which were not previously available or thought of.  This allows for opportunity to drive your business further with increasing revenue and productivity.

Furthermore, if there is not an app, you can hire a Google Apps developer and build an integrated application or script to help meet your requirements.

The key is to leverage this powerful platform by remaining agile and flexible.  Your business keeps changing because markets are changing faster than ever.  You can build as you go and know that the power of extensibility will ensure your requirements will have a solution.

What business systems are you seeking to build?

Calendar Sharing

Google has the most powerful calendar sharing application.  It is easy to share events securely and publicly if so desired.  Toggling views of calendars and changing events in a world where things are always changing make this an ideal environment for managing constant change.

You can share your Google Calendar with members of your organization or you can also share it externally with others.

To share or unshare your calendar, do the following:

  1. Click the Share Calendar menu item from your own calendar listed in the Calendars at left. 
  2. Add the email address of the person you want to share with.  Select the sharing setting you would like as a default. 

You can allow four levels of sharing security with others on your team.  They can view and toggle by clicking/unclicking your respective calendar.

Also, note that if you make your Google Calendar where a person can see all event details, you can mark individual Events as Private by simply selecting the radio button when creating or editing the respective event: 


Google Apps Mail Client

When you click a “mailto:” email link in your web browser, your default email software will launch.  For some who have transitioned from Outlook or Thunderbird, you will have your former email client launch undesirably.

You can have an email composed from your Gmail program as the default email program by using a tool called Gmail Notifier.  Click here to download this tool for your Windows or Mac OS.

In Windows, the Notifier icon will be in your system tray in the bottom right.  Right-click it and select Options.  Then check the box next to ‘Use Gmail for internet mailto: links’ and click ‘OK.’

For a Mac, in Gmail Notifier Preferences, go to ‘Settings,’ and select Gmail from the ‘Default Email Program:’ drop-down menu.

Note you will also have notifications when you receive new emails into your Gmail account as well.