Another guest post from the amazing Stephanie Lee. You can read her first post 5 Things to Keep in Mind When Hiring a Virtual Assistant.
I love ease. I want my life to be as easy as possible. I mean, we’re busy, us humans. We work either outside or inside the home, we have busy families (hello 3 year old!), busy spouses, busy households, just lots of stuff to do (and still to do, and (sigh) still to do)… and the list goes on. Nothing new, all moms are busy, life is busy. Except for me, I like to think that I’ve got a secret weapon, especially when it comes to my work-at-home business:
Hard to believe an email application can reduce stress, but it does. I’ve optimized my Gmail account to be super-duper efficient, easy, and to keep me out of overwhelm (if anybody has a way to optimize a toddler to do the same, please let me know!).
Here are the top three ways I’ve reduced my inbox, made it easier to use, and condensed the stuff I really don’t need to see every hour of every day… which is most of it!
- Priority inbox. As soon as this function was launched, I jumped on the bandwagon. I now have all of my clients as Priority, so they show up at the very top of my inbox. Also my husband and my son’s new preschool. Those are the things I’ve GOT to look at first, each and every day. (Go to Settings/Inbox.)
- Star system. I put a coloured star beside things I need to reference for the week. Whether it’s an email with a webinar link, something I’m currently working on and don’t want to lose track of, directions to someone’s house (why oh why is there a million different ways to get somewhere in Vancouver?), a cool new app to check out, etc. I simply star it right away and then it’s close at hand for when I need it. I have it set up so that everything I’ve starred falls directly below my Priority Inbox for quick access. (Go to Settings/Inbox/”Inbox sections”.)
- Task lists. Google tasks has really changed how I do business and has helped me to become more efficient, timely, and all around ON IT. This is a fantastic tool! I have a task list for each client and if something doesn’t have an immediate actionable, I simply add it to the applicable task list, assign a date, and voila! It shows up on my Google calendar when I need it to! Another great use of the task list feature is in follow up. If I’ve sent a note to someone and need a response, I add it to the appropriate task list and assign a date to it so I’ll see it again when I need to. I reference the lists in my weekly meetings with clients, I use them to check off tasks when complete, to keep track of what I’ve delegated or outsourced and just to keep important information handy at the click of a mouse. This is also a fantastic tool to keep a running list of things I need to stay on top of for my family. (Create and have your task lists show up on your Gmail dashboard by clicking the drop-down arrow next to “Gmail” in the upper left-hand side of your dashboard.)
Honourable Mention: Filters. Oh Gmail Filters, how I love thee. I subscribe to a lot of things. Like, a lot a lot. Like, probably way too much! The thing is, if I’m stuck having a bout of writer’s block, or can’t think of anything to post on my Facebook page or really just want to come back to something on a rainy day, I can access everything quickly because I’ve already created a filter for it. A filter that keeps them organized, but out of my inbox. If you have things coming in quite often (ie: the ezine subscriptions!), I’d suggest creating a filter for it. (Check out Settings/Filters for options, as there are many!) What I use it for the most is clients and newsletters.
As soon as an email comes in from one of my clients, it’s in my priority inbox but it’s also labeled accordingly. That way, I can simply click their label on the left hand side of my inbox and everything from them shows up. You can set the filters so they don’t even show up in your inbox, but automatically go into their label (labels are simply like folders) so you don’t have to see a full inbox and get all stressed out – instead you just click on it when you need to focus on their work. YAY! I have filters for PR opportunities, friends, suppliers, clients, my husband, my son, my contractors, my online payment systems, various applications, and yes, my dog. Just using filters and having things automagically removed from your inbox can save you loads of stress and overwhelm!
Nothing wrong with wanting ease, so why don’t you make your life as easy as possible using these simple techniques to optimize your inbox!
Do you have any tips or tricks for keeping your inbox manageable? I’d love to hear them – share in the comments below!
Stephanie Lee is the busy mom behind ScratchpadSecretaries.com, a Virtual Assistant business, and MomsWhoMeanBusiness.ca, a site dedicated to helping other moms find their online calling and training them how to get noticed (and get their bank accounts rockin’!). She has a free weekly tip sheet for hip mamas who want to start, run and grow a successful home based business. Sign up now to receive insider tips & resources designed to help YOU make money from home! (AND? You get the insider’s peek at her “Little Black Book” – the FULL list of apps she uses to run her biz!)
Read more advice from Stephanie and nearly 100 other moms and mom biz experts in our book Mom, Incorporated!