Use Gmail as a productivity tool

Gmail can be a very powerful time management tool, particularly if you receive lots of e-mail (and who doesn’t these days).  It has a ton of add ins that can streamline the process and gives makes management on a mobile device a snap.

A few weeks ago I embarked on a new journey by switching all of my e-mail management to the Gmail client.  This was a big change for me since Outlook is such a big part of my personal management system.  At first I was a little nervous, but as I became more comfortable with the user interface and additional tools, I was hooked.

I used Gmail for years for a personal e-mail address but didn’t give it much thought as a business tool.  In a span of a few weeks several clients had told me that they switched everything to the platform.  I was skeptical at first, but the more I looked into it the more sense it made for me.

Best for small businesses and soloists

I have to add that this approach makes more sense for small businesses and solo operators than it does for individuals on corporate networks.  But it also gives the little guy the same functionality and ease-of-use enterprise Blackberry users have had for years.

Many people have asked me why I made the switch since I spend a great deal of time teaching time management with Outlook.  Like all technology it’s a matter of personal choice, not unlike choosing a pair of shoes. The fit is individual.

Here are my main reasons:

  • I switched to Outlook (Office) 2010 to become familiar enough with it to create a new version of our Master Your Workload with Outlook.  Unfortunately 2010’s  contacts no longer sync with Gmail contacts without jumping through a number of hoops. I looked at moving my contacts to Gmail and it made sense.  Besides I’m a big fan of cloud applications. When I update a contact on my mobile device (right now I’m using the Android), desktop or laptop everything is changed at the source.  No more synchronizing.
  • Same thing with e-mail.  I set forwarded all of my company e-mail boxes to my Gmail account and now I can manage everything live at the source no matter which device I use.  And I’m able to take advantage of Google’s IMAP.  As a longtime Blackberry user I had found the POP e-mail clunky on the Android, often not receiving messages.  Now that everything is in one place I haven’t missed anything.
  • Using Gmail’s labels and filters gives you the ability to identify messages coming from multiple e-mail addresses. And I find them to be easier to use and versatile than Outlook’s Rules.
  • If you use the right tools you can make your inbox do double duty as a mail receiving dock and as an adjunct to your task list.  I don’t advocate letting everything sit in your inbox so that you can use it as a task list.  But by using labels and filters correctly you can quickly archive e-mails (get them out of your inbox) and view them later as tasks.  This saves converting them to separate tasks.  If you are a fan of the Getting Things Done (GTD) approach you can make it mimic your lists.

In fact there’s a cool Gmail application called Action Inbox that allows you to manage your e-mail using GTD lists.  I hope to have the creator as a guest on our podcast soon.

What’s the catch?

On the downside, the task tool in Gmail is weak…very weak. But if most of your activity is driven by e-mail then it may not be a problem.  Also, you are at the mercy of the gods at Google.
Last week a friend told me that she had a Gmail virus that spammed everyone on her list in a matter of minutes.  Google immediately shut her down and it took hours to resolve the problem. In the meantime she had no access to her contacts and messages.

Be sure to back up everything on a regular basis.  Don’t trust your cloud provider, no matter who it is, to make sure your data is safe.  You may recall the incident a couple years ago when T-Mobile lost the e-mail of millions of customers.  Stuff happens.

Tips and new premium content here

As I use Gmail for my daily work I see how it can easily be integrated into our own WorkloadMaster time management system.  I’ll be sharing some tips and tricks here on the blog and will create a series of how-to training videos for our premium members.