Productivity

How to Use Gmail and Make it Work For You

For years email and I were at war.

I avoided it, blamed it for productivity hassles and wished it would disappear like other relics from the past.

I was so wrong. Email wasn't the problem, I just didn't use it correctly.

Like any tool, it's all in how it is used. I had to learn how to use it like a pro to appreciate what a great resource I had at my fingertips.

Today I'll teach you how to set up your priority subscriptions, how to automate record keeping, find a lost phone, reach inbox zero and more.

Ready to make Gmail work FOR you instead of the other way around? Awesome. Let's dig in!

1. Program Email to Send at a Later Time

 Boomerang  is amazing. You can Schedule your email  in advance so your colleagues don't realize you are a workaholic and draft email at 2am. (What? I'm not judging. I know how it is!) 

You can also program specific email to show back up in your inbox at a certain time/date if the respondent hasn't replied. This is perfect for those of you who live by inbox zero and can't handle having email clutter.

How to program your Gmail to send an email at a certain time. (Tweet it!)

 



 

2. Save all your Gmail Attachments to a Dropbox Folder

 

Are you familiar with IFTTT? If you are, you know the magic it holds. If not, SIT DOWN. Seriously, your world is about to turn upside down.

IFTTT (If this, then that) is a website & brilliant iPhone app that allows you to create "recipes" that essentially tie together different apps and social media and all kinds of different things. You can tailor these recipes just for you...for example, if you favorite a tweet, you can have that tweet sent directly to a google doc. Or to your email. Or to Evernote.  Whatever you like.

Or perhaps you're a big Netflix fan; you can have IFTTT email you when they have a new release. You can have stuff delivered to your kindle, or program it to say, "Happy Birthday" to you every year. The sky's the limit.

This is such a time saver.  I use IFTTT to have all of my email attachments saved automatically to a Dropbox folder; no more searching the inbox. It's all in dropbox, ready to rock.

 

3. Research and Catch Up on your Contact's Social Network Data inside Gmail

 This service pulls in up social network information in Gmail's sidebar. It will show you your email contact’s LinkedIn profile, last five tweets, and their Facebook Page, and all kinds of relevant info about your contact. It will  help you know if the person sending you an email is legit or a scammer.

It's like that good friend who whispers in your ear while you're at a party, reminding you that you met Carol at a business meeting last fall and that she tweets about the Yankees a lot. (Note to self- Don't invite her to any Red Sox games. Awkward.) 

 

4. One Inbox to Check All Your Email

Do not- I repeat- DO NOT check multiple email accounts. This is a huge waste of time. The most efficient way to manage multiple email accounts is to combine them into one smart master inbox.  You can adjust the settings so the reply email address is automatically the same one that the email was originally sent to.

The best tutorial on how to set up  is here- How To Access All Your Gmail Accounts With One Log In

5. Undo Send

 

We've all sent an email and then noticed we made a horrible mistake. A typo, an incorrect auto population of the 'To' field, a dreaded 'Reply All"...  There are so many way email can go downhill fast. Here's how to catch your mistakes and turn back time. Gmail has a labs feature that allows users to have a grace period of a few seconds after sending an email to undo send. I've used it no less than a gazillion times.

Here's how to turn it on:

  1. Click the gear icon on the right side of your inbox.
  2. The settings area should pop open.
  3. Scroll down and enable Undo Send.

Here's how to Undo Send in Gmail! (Tweet it!)

6. Organize Your Receipts Automatically on a Google Docs Spreadsheet

We are back to our friend IFTTT.  This is a great way to keep your receipts organized.  Gmail will automatically search for email with "order" or "Receipt" and add a new row with the first  attachment to a receipts spreadsheet.  You'll thank me come tax time.

7.  Go From Inbox Overload to Inbox Zero the Easy Way

Use the Mailbox iPhone app to take your out-of-control inbox (and email hoarding tendencies) and take it all to zero magically. Before I used Mailbox I had over 60K email floating around in my inbox. (Hey, I'm being honest here. I know, I know...I had a problem. I did admit earlier that I used to be at war with email!) Gmail doesn't have a mass delete and after a few years of email for multiple companies/projects/etc. I was drowning in email and had thrown my hands up.

Then came Mailbox. I archived all my old email safely out of my inbox so I could start over with a clean slate.

(Sidenote- I spend $20 a year for over 80GBs of space for my email backups and Drive storage space so I never worry that I erased something I may need. So far, I've never needed anything from my archives but knowing I have everything just in case I ever do  is worth the 20$ a year.)

 

8. Send an Email Note to Yourself with a Phone Call

IFTTT will email a transcription and an MP3 recording of your note to self.  This is perfect for when brilliance strikes while you are on the go!

9. Use Gmail to call your phone when you can't find it

Yes, IFTTT again. If you lose your phone, just email yourself with the #LostPhone hashtag and it will call your phone. How awesome is that?

Lose your iPhone in the couch again? Here's how to email it and make it ring. (Tweet it!)

 

10. Control your Inbox with Tabs

Gmail has gone and redone our inboxes again.  Some people love it, some people hate it.

Here's the thing about why this change is such a hassle for people like me who save our best information for email- it may make it harder for readers to actually find the information they requested!

So far. I like using the tabs. My strategy is to star the emails that are important in my Promotions tab and that redirects all email from that sender to go to my Priority inbox. Because, I'll be honest, it could take a few days before I ever open the other two tabs. 

 

Another Tip- You can also drag an email that is in the Promotions tab over to your Primary tab. This will help you see email that could get lost in the Promotions tab.

If you don't like the tabs, here's your answer: How to Get Rid of Gmail's New Tabs (And Why You Should)


Are you tired of feeling like you are always on a hamster wheel of busyness but getting no where? Ever secretly feel like a failure or a fraud? Have you ever asked yourself if life has to be this hard? If so, my new book, Breaking Busy is for you. Click here to order your copy! 


 

10 Ways to Use Evernote Like a Pro

What you really need to know about using Evernote and how to make it work for you!

 

I love Evernote. I love the simplicity, I love the green color, I love the elephant logo. I love everything about it. I’ve used it since it launched and it just keeps getting better.

Yes, there are lots of new productivity tools out there and new ones pop up daily, but Evernote just works. It syncs all my devices perfectly, I pay $5 a month for a massive amount of space that I’ve never come close to filling up, and it works with tons of different web tools to automate many of my daily tasks.

Today I’m sharing 10 of my favorite tips to keep you organized, automate the tasks that we all hate doing in our businesses, and share some new ways that you can use Evernote to transform your business.

Sidenote- You may have tried Evernote before and had a tough time getting started, if so, give it another go using these tips. You’ll love how Evernote can streamline your life!

1. You will love the Web Clipper tool

The Evernote Web Clipper browser add-on allows you to customize exactly what part of a webpage you want to save. You don’t just save the URL (although you can); you can save a portion of a webpage or the entire page. You can categorize them in your customized folders, add notes, tag them, and even have them included in your google searches.

2. You can build your own personal database

I suggest you save everything that could be useful one day; you don’t have to be judicious (especially with the $5/month premium version). By properly categorizing and tagging your notes, everything you need is always at your fingertips, across all of your devices. I do this with research constantly. As a business consultant, I have to be able to back up my statements with fact. Having a notebook full of the latest research, studies, and data organized at my fingertips is a huge timesaver.

Bonus- Evernote can also save large PDFs. This is very helpful when I need to save a white paper or a research paper and have it all scannable by text.

3. You can tag and always find your voice memos

Evernote’s voice memos are useful for so many reasons. Record a business meeting, a presentation at an event, or even notes for your next article…all while you are out and about. I even record the sermons every Sunday as I take notes. You can tag and save them for easy retrieval in the future.

4. You can capture all your brilliant ideas

When I see something that inspires me, I take a picture with my phone, then give it a title, tag it. Saved! When I think of a great article idea that I want to write in the future, I add it to a note of “Future Article Ideas” that serves as a constantly updated idea generator.

5. You can add value for clients

I have individual shared notebooks with my business coaching clients. The nature of coaching clients is that it is very hands-on and needs to be customized for individual needs. Some small businesses need me to teach them about sales funnels, some entrepreneurs need to focus on their target demographic, and others need resources every step of the way.

With shared Evernote notebooks, I can add new tutorials and insight for each topic as we work on them. If, for example, on a call with a client, I discuss the need for a comprehensive visual content strategy, I will then update the Evernote notebook with the exact information the client needs. This is a small thing, but small touches like this are very valuable. When you go out of your way to help and serve your clients it makes your business untouchable.

6. You can be prepared for every meeting

When I schedule a meeting, I will make a private link (this is a link to your notebook that only YOU can access*) from an Evernote note and paste it on my calendar. This allows me to be able to prepare for my meeting easily when I’m out and about. Handy notes to link on my calendar have been a record of our last conversation, what we are talking about at the meeting, what the desired outcomes are, etc…

To create a private link: (Control + Click of the Trackpad on a Mac) and select ‘Copy Note Link’ then paste the link on your calendar of choice. I used Gcal. Private links can only be done from the desktop version of evernote, not the mobile.

7. You can make travel easier

Create an Evernote file where you store your itineraries, reservations, maps, tickets and everything else you might need while you’re enjoying your travels. I save all my travel information (flights, schedule, meetings) before a trip. Each trip has a page in a ‘Travel’ notebook. (Seriously, is anything more annoying than trying to search your email for something? Email is a terrible way to keep information handy.) I also add pictures to the travel note with a few notes to help me remember important parts of the trip.

Bonus tip- Your phone’s Evernote app will not download all your notebooks for offline use (thankfully) so make your travel notebook accessible offline to keep it handy even when you do not have coverage or wifi available.

8. You can digitize receipts and document expenditures

Make tax time easier. Keep photos of your deductible expenditures and receipts in Evernote. Combine this with the tip on automating a running tally of reciepts here and you are an automation machine. It only takes moments when you do it as you go.

Bonus-  Make a notebook of everything your accountant needs and simply share it each quarter when it’s time to do your quarterly business taxes. Super streamlined!

9. Shareable Portfolio or Press Kit

Let’s say  a graphic designer having coffee with friends and a new acquaintance that happens to need a logo redesign; with Evernote  he could have his portfolio with him, perhaps picking up a new client. With multiple, customized shared notebooks you can create a portfolio and information of exactly what a certain client is looking for.

Sidenote on Customization- You may be a jack-of-all-trades who can code, make amazing videos, and tap dance to show-tunes, but that doesn’t all fit well when trying to impress a potential client. Have a notebook highlighting your amazing graphic design work with pictures and testimonials from clients who loved your work. Save the notebook highlighting your tap dancing career for people in that market.

10. Streamline training with teams 

When I was running Blissfully Domestic, I used an Evernote shared notebook to on-board new writers and curators. I made tutorials with pictures, links and instructions on exactly what the editorial specs were for our articles. The notebook held our processes for publishing workflows, responsibilities and processes. Other items in the notebook included: SEO guide, recommended fonts and style guide, and editorial calendar. The editorial guide notebook kept everything streamlined and no one ever had to field email questions of, “Where is….” or “What do I do next?”

So now you know how to use Evernote like a pro. The secret to productivity is two fold: automating repetitive tasks and streamlining your workflows. With these tips you will save hours every month because you will have all your information handy at all times and can boost your communication with others by having your assets in gear. (See what I did there? Heh.) 

 

Sign up for Evernote here

 

How to Schedule Your Day

“How do I schedule my day?”

I hear this question from clients and friends alike. Deciding how to structure our time and steward  our resources is top of mind for all of us.

 We’re working longer. But that doesn’t mean we’re getting any more done.

Of course, scheduling your work day depends on lots of factors. If you work in an office, home office, what type of work you do, etc..

No matter what field you are in and what type of business you do, there are three habits that will help you have the best day possible.

(Two of the habits, we have already covered here together, just click the links for the article on each one.)

3 Keys to Structuring Your Day:

1.  Do the things that have the most impact. 

2. Stay focused and avoid wasting your time.

3. Schedule breaks throughout the work day.

This one is so counterintuitive, you may be tempted to roll your eyes, skim over it and never think of it again. (How do I know this? I used to do the same thing!)

We can only stay focused on a single task for about 90-120 minutes at a time.

Physiologist  Nathan Kleitman, a groundbreaking sleep researcher, first coined what he called  the “basic rest-activity cycle”: the 90-minute cycles during which you progress through the five stages of sleep. Kleitman found the 90-minute pattern in our days, too, as we move from higher to lower alertness–the ultradian rhythm. 

Have you noticed how you have certain times of day where you operate at peak performance and other times you seem to be phoning it in? Ultradian Rhythm at work! 

Our brains are meant to have breaks.

We can only focus on a single task for a limited amount of time before our focus and work suffers. When we take a break, we are allowing our brains to  process.

The brain gradually stops registering a sight, sound or feeling if that stimulus remains constant over time. For example, most people are not aware of the sensation of clothing touching their skin. The body becomes “habituated” to the feeling and the stimulus no longer registers in any meaningful way in the brain. 

Taking a break from the task at hand allows our brains to make breakthroughs in our work. (Research)

Want to remember more and be more creative? Take breaks during  your work day.

Your brain needs time to be away from the computer screen. In my opinion, checking Facebook does not *really* count as a break, neither does checking your email. Why? Those things are too closely tied to your work because you are still staring at the screen.

Try going outside for a few minutes, do some stretches, chat with a colleague or friend, say a prayer or (if you must stay at the computer) watch a 5 minute clip on Youtube that will make you laugh. Disengage and get out of the normal ‘head space’ that your brain is in during the work day.

Try this for a few days and your brain will thank you!

30 Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make

Over 50% of small businesses fail in the first 5 years

I believe that most small business owners are their own worst enemy. Despite having the motivation and vision to be a business owner, entrepreneurs make mistakes that can be avoided.

Today you will discover 30 business mistakes that entrepreneurs make that doom their businesses. You’ll uncover tactics, mindsets and facts that will help you ensure your business success!

Mistakes Entrepreneurs Make, and how to avoid them.

1. They don’t spend time on the (non-sexy) foundational work.

Have you ever had to tell someone that they spent 20K on a website that hates it’s users? I have. It’s not fun. But it had to be done.

Why does this happen?

It all comes down to a lack of foundational work. The site looks beautiful, but users can’t figure what what action to take when they get there.

Whether it is developing a customer persona, learning to craft and use a messaging strategy, or discovering how individuals absorb content online.  

Foundational tasks cannot be skipped.

2. They expect fast results for minimal effort.

It’s human nature to hope for a secret easy way to be successful. Who doesn’t want “6 weeks to success” or a magic product that makes the pieces line up? We all would love that!

It doesn’t exist. It’s hard, it takes specific steps and a lot of help.

If it was easy to build a business everyone would quit their jobs, build a website with massive traffic and drink pina coladas on the beach all day.

3. They don’t filter every decision through the lens of their long-term goals.

This is critical. Keep your eye on the goal and make sure that you’re always heading in that direction. Don’t be distracted by tangents that seem like a good idea at the time if they don’t align with your long term goals.

One of my closest friends is waiting to write her book for a time when she can focus. Imagine a top literary agent tracks a writer down and signs her and the writer says, “I will write it when I get a chance.”

One day I lost my patience and blurted, “Stop doing anything new unless it directly helps you reach this goal. Stop saying yes to anything that doesn’t move you a step closer to this goal.”

Don’t clutter your day with things that aren’t crucial for your long-term success. (tweet it)

4. They focus on Social and think eMail marketing is an outdated Marketing strategy. 

The internet is a crowded place. How many amazing sites have you seen that you forget to go back and visit? Too many to remember, right? The way smart businesses remind people that they are there is to have an email marketing strategy that works to serve their readers.

When the time comes to sell a product/service, publicize a special promotion, email is the way to go. It is a more intimate medium and the business owner has the ability to take their message right to the customer.

Sure, Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest are fine for building awareness and driving traffic, but those who rely on Social Media marketing to drive sales may need to sit down for this next fact.

Only 1.55% of all traffic going to ecommerce sites was driven by Social Media and even then only .71% of that converted to a sale. (Tweet it)

Ouch. That one stung, huh?

5. Their websites are not mobile responsive.

If a website doesn’t automatically resize itself to the device it is read on, then it is actively driving people away. In 2016, all websites should be mobile-optimized and should look great on an iPhone, an iPad and any other device where it’s viewed.

Google’s study of what mobile users want from sites had some illuminating stats:

  • 61% of users said that if they didn’t find what they were looking for right away on a mobile site, they’d quickly move on to another site
  • 50% of people said that even if they like a business, they will use them less often if the website isn’t mobile-friendly

Sidenote: If your developer/consultant hasn’t insisted on mobile optimization (and a mobile plugin does not count) then you need to re-evaluate that service provider.

6. They think that because they loved doing one thing that they will love running a business about that thing.

This is where the “do what you love” advice to potential entrepreneurs falls flat. Just because someone loves making graphics doesn’t mean that person would love running a graphic design business. Having passion for your business is fabulous, but don’t mistake loving watercolor painting to mean you’ll be great at running a watercolor painting business.

A business needs a manager, a sales person and someone who produces the product (or service). It’s very common for someone who loves doing something as part of a business to leave to start their own business, only to learn that the act of running their own business keeps them from doing the one thing they love.

7. They don’t know who they are talking to.

Naturally we all want the entire world to be our customer base. New business owners tend to fight the concept of identifying a target market and serving them directly.

“But Alli, why would I exclude everyone else?”

It’s not about excluding others, it’s about serving one client persona in the best way possible. It’s about finding a niche where you can shine.

8. They don’t have a support system.

Without a mentor or a coach, who has been successful in business themselves, small business owners lack a crucial element for success- wisdom!

And without someone (or a small group of like-minded individuals) to keep entrepreneurs accountable, things easily start to slide off the rails.

A bit of honesty here: I have a business coach and my most successful colleagues have them as well. The best investment I’ve made in my business is coaching from entrepreneurs who’ve gone before me. 

Click here to apply for individualized intensive business coaching with me. 

Some of the best advice I ever received was this- "Don’t let yourself get so cocky that you think you don’t need counsel and accountability."

9. They don’t guard their time.

Without conscience guarding of time, the whole day can be spent reacting to things instead of building on opportunities. This doesn’t mean you have to have a strict schedule…absolutely  not. It does mean you should know where to NOT spend your time.

All entrepreneurs should read Breaking Busy to learn to get off the hamster wheel of endless activity and learn to focus in for success. (And yes, I did write the book, so I am a bit biased. :) 

10. They think business is a zero sum game.

A zero sum game is where the success of one person is always offset by the loss of another. This is a classic scarcity mindset in business. My policy is to never do business with those who have this view. The concept that one person’s gain is always another’s loss leads to unnecessary competition, stress and jealousy.

11. They don’t ask the right questions.

People who are successful focus on discovering what is good and can be learned in any situation. They ask questions that lead to continued momentum and greater opportunities and productivity.

12. They think traffic will magically become a revenue model.

When I hear new bloggers talk of their desire to boost traffic my question always stops the conversation dead in the tracks.

Why?

What?

“Why do you want more traffic?”

If a website isn’t sticky and the traffic bounces it is worthless. Traffic without a goal for the traffic is a wasted goal. It’s not about the traffic number, it’s about how useful the traffic is.

Will these individuals sign-up for the email list? Will these visitors become customers?

Those who have no specific goal for their visitors can hope for tons of traffic all day but it will never make a difference in their business in the long run.

And I won’t even bother addressing banner advertising here. You are better off becoming a Navy Seal.

Instead of spending time posting content multiple times a day and trying to hit viral gold, successful entrepreneurs focus on building a great product and serving their market.

13. They focus on shiny objects and tools.

Have you ever read an article that excitedly tries to convince you that a new WordPress plugin or a new Social Media platform is a game changer? Were they? Did that one shiny object rock your world? Probably not.

Is there a plugin, a social network or a theme that can develop a real business model? Nope.

Writing about tools is easier to do than writing about the real grind of building a business. It’s great for pageviews but these things are distractions.

Stick to what matters. Shiny objects are fun and useful, but always focus on what moves your business from point A to point B.

14. They waste time on the wrong things.

Successful business owners know to pass things through the ‘So what’ test. This keeps them from wasting time, energy and focus on things that don’t get them closer to their goal.

“We have 1000 new Facebook fans this month.”

“So what?”

Without signing fans up on an email list at minimum, and eventually converting those fans to customers, the tactic is wasted energy.

Check out Breaking Busy for more tips on how to spend your time on the right things! 

15. They avoid criticism.

Successful business owners know that the only way to not be criticized is to never innovate, never compete, and never get noticed.

Fear should come from being ignored in business, not from being criticized.

16. They wait for permission.

The beautiful thing about the time we live in is that we have endless opportunities for learning, starting a business and marketing a business online. There are no gate keepers who make future business owners pass tests and pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for the chance to succeed.

Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for permission. (Tweet it!)

17. They are pennywise and pound foolish.

The most successful business people understand that spending money to build and scale their business is a smart choice. Don’t throw money away, but don’t squirrel it away when it could be spent achieving success.

Don’t cut corners and wonder why your business has no traction.

18. They don’t test their assumptions.

I once had an emergency consulting call with a friend who spent 6 months on a product and never tested his idea to see if  his audience would buy it. Thousands of his readers ignored his “amazing product” much to his dismay.

He never tested his assumption that people needed, wanted and would actually pay for what he was building.

19. They don’t know how people read content on the web.

  • People skim.
  • People like bullet points.
  • People like bold typeface.
  • People like simple, declarative statements.
  • People like short paragraphs no longer than five lines deep. Preferably three.

You know what people don’t like? Long-winded explanations and unnecessary flowery language that drones on and on and doesn’t really get to any substance because it tells stories or gives too many examples or dances around the subject or drones on and on . . . oh did I already say that?

See what I did there? 

20. They think they don’t need to constantly learn to stay competitive.

The mindset that talent and knowledge is at a fixed level limits success. Successful business people know that education does not end with a degree.

The most successful business people are the ones who seek out knowledge, wise counsel and who actively work to improve themselves.

“If you want to identify the most senior, knowledgeable people in an audience, look for the people who are taking notes and asking questions.” 

21. They focus on vanity metrics.

Vanity metrics are those that feel good but don’t actually make a difference in your business. Does a klout score pay the mortgage? Does your number of Twitter followers directly impact your ability to close a deal?

Successful business people focus on metrics that matter. (Tweet it!)

22. They think business success comes from tactics over mindset.

Tactics matter. Big time.

They pale in comparison,  however, to your mindset. If your mindset is negative and you do not think you will succeed- You Won’t!

23. They don’t pay attention to the human component of business.

Every time I’ve heard that statement before or after some bit of news it has had one common thread. The person is being a jerk, and is deflecting the fact that someone in a transaction is getting the shaft.

Business is about people. From the employees to to customers, it’s all about people.

24. They think of networking as a contact sport.

Successful business people know that networking is about investing in others and building real relationships. It’s not about throwing business cards at other people and sizing them up to see how useful others will be for their business.

25. They spend too much time talking on Social Media platforms and not focused on serving their customers

Social media is your friend and a powerful tool in your arsenal. It’s not the end-all be-all. It’s great for expanding your brand, customer service, and engaging with the community at large.

But don’t go overboard relying on it. You need to work and not lose focus on the stream of chatter.

26. They don’t track and test what is and isn’t working in their business.

Successful businesses know where they spend their money and their energy and what value is provided for the expenditure.

The secret is simple- Put more resources on what works for your business.

Without measuring and testing the success of every tactic, how would you know?

 

27. They don’t think long-term strategy and continue to spin their wheels.

Opportunities come at entrepreneurs constantly. Maybe all the opportunities are good, but if they don’t line up with long-term goals, even the best opportunity is harmful.

Ask yourself, “Does this activity move me a step closer to my goal?”

28. They listen to the wrong people.

There’s a whole lotta “experts” out there, but a serious dearth of people who can help you.  Just like your neighbor who tinkers on his car isn’t where you take your car when the brakes are squeaking, you need to find the right expert for you and your small business. One reason I interview potential clients before I accept them into a coaching or mentoring program with me is because I want to make sure I am the person who can serve them best. It’s important to have the right business consultant / business fit. Not just anyone will do!

Click here to apply for business coaching and mentoring. 

29.  They hire fast and fire slow.

We’ve all been there. That person who seemed like a perfect candidate turns out to be not what you want at all. Passive aggressive tendencies, negative mindsets, poor work habits are all way too common.

When you start thinking you have the wrong person working for you, do not let the fact that you like them personally delay the inevitable. Let them go.

Successful small business owners hire slow and fire fast.

30. They don’t pay attention to posts like this. 

Don't let any of these 30 mistake happen to you. Invest in yourself and your businesses future with personalized high level coaching. 

Click here to apply for individualized intensive business coaching with me. 

 
 
Mistakes Entrepreneurs make