I use a lot of Google’s applications to stay organized and productive, but I’m especially fond of Gmail. In its standard form, it’s a fine email client that makes it easy to stay on top of that mountain of email, but with a little customization you can use it to become even more efficient. Here are six super ways to send Gmail into productivity overdrive.
#1: Use super stars.
You know how Gmail has the standard Gmail star? Now you can make it a super star! Enable Superstars within Labs under Settings. Once enabled, you can select the super stars you’d like to use by dragging and dropping them within the General tab under Settings.
Here are a few examples of how I use super stars.
I use the red and yellow exclamation points to mark items that (a) are work-related and (b) require some action on my part (red indicates something more pressing than yellow). I use the purple question mark for pending payments, deposits, and other things I’m waiting for.
#2: Use search.
I don’t really use folders (or labels) in Gmail, only because the search functionality is so easy to use. If I need to find something related to a particular client, I just type the client’s name and find it that way.
The advanced search functionality allows you to search within a date range (say within a month of a particular date), so finding a particular email is generally pretty easy and requires a lot less upkeep than folders (unless you set up filters to maintain this for you).
The best tip for searching is to use very specific search terms. If you can remember a particular phrase, name, or keyword that was used and the approximate date it was emailed (say the month of June), you’ll reduce your search results tremendously, making it even faster to locate information. Read more »
I’ll admit, I haven’t always tracked my time when it comes to my clients and their projects. Although I always knew roughly how long things took me to complete, until recently, I never kept up with a more detailed view of my time.
The longer I continue this practice, the more I’m coming to appreciate it.
Here’s why it pays to track.
#1 It helps with finding the “time sucks.”
You might realize after tracking your time for a while that certain types of projects are less profitable than others. For instance, if you’re a ghostwriter, you might make considerably more writing blog entries than in-depth white papers. If so, you can adjust your pricing or service offerings to compensate for the difference.
You might also find that a particular client is more demanding on your time than other clients, and as a result, you might decide to drop him, charge him more going forward, or change your methods for working with him in order to be more efficient.
#2 It helps with staying on track.
I currently have a very specific goal to keep me on track – work four paid hours per day. I can quickly glance at my time sheet for a given day and see if I’m anywhere near that goal. If I’m not, I know I need to concentrate on acquiring new projects.
The more consistent you can be about hitting your own daily goal, the more consistent your income and work load will be. Read more »
I can always tell when I’m just putting out fires (moving from one “urgent urgency” to the next).
“What? A client needs help with an über pressing concern, and it has to be handled right now or his website will explode? I’ll get on that right away!”
“What, Ms. Prospective Client, you have the ultimate web project, but you need a quote within the hour? No problem.”
It starts with checking email first thing in the morning. Open, read, react, and an hour later, reply. Open, read, react, and an hour later, reply.
On and on it goes, until it’s two o’clock and not one smidgen of paid work has been done, or if it has, it’s been done in a haphazard way, usually at the client’s demand instead of using my own tried-and-true schedule and system.
By the end of the day, I’m zapped and feel like a heel for allowing my work to control me instead of the other way around.
There has to be a better way, and you know there is. Read more »