Have you noticed how some issues are universally challenging? Presenting a workshop for local mums recently, and attending a Women Unlimited business club a few days later, it was surprising (or maybe not?) that of all the issues discussed, one kept coming up as a major challenge - that of Time Management.
Whether you’re a savvy business owner, busy mum or high-flying corporate executive, managing time is a constant juggle. We know what we need to do but somehow struggle to find enough hours in the day to get it all done.
One of the most common areas of stress is around email and our overflowing and bulging inboxes. The flow of “incoming” is incessant and if not properly managed can soon become overwhelming. Following a trip recently where my all-singing, all-dancing android phone packed up and I had limited access to email for almost 9 days (can you imagine!) I returned to find 1,500 unread emails.
After spending almost 2 days ploughing through said emails, I finally reclaimed control of my inbox and vowed never to be in that situation again. What struck me about this exercise was how relatively few emails were urgent or required immediate action. The majority were emails I wanted sight of but could be actioned at a later date. But there they were clogging up my email and making me feel totally overwhelmed.
So, the first of the amazing inbox management tools is a Active Inbox The Google Chrome extension (app) is free and offers a number of nifty ways to manage emails.
Once installed, the Active Inbox toolbar offers options for marking emails, such as “action”, which puts the email into a separate “Action” folder. Now that email is highlighted in your inbox as one that requires attention and can be tracked. You can also access all the Action emails in one folder making a much more stream-lined To Do list.
Emails can be archived with or without action and emails grouped together into project folders. Using Active Inbox, it is actually possible to empty your inbox without losing emails, and track tasks through to completion using the review bar.
Use the “waiting on” label for emails that you’re waiting for a response on. Perfect if you’re working with a team or coordinating a group of people and want to keep track of who’s responded. Or need to schedule follow-ups. And there’s a task bar so you can set and review tasks.
Less urgent emails can be set up to read and archive into folders. This is something you can set up with gmail filters but I like having all the tools in one handy toolbar. Best of all is the support. When you install Active Inbox there’s a handy “Getting Started” tab on the screen (top right) with lots of tips and ideas for making the most of this application. And a twitter handle if you need a fast response from the support desk.
Once you discover the power of Active Inbox you can really take control of your inbox and go for the minimalist approach. Ahh! But, there’s more!
Another amazing free tool is Boomerang. I love this google chrome extension for scheduling emails. Boomerang literally allows you to take an email and boomerang it in or out of your inbox, on autopilot.
Want to delay sending an email? Prepare the email, and queue it up to go out in 2 hours or 2 days. One of the features I use most often, and perfect for emails that require attention, but not yet, is to boomerang the email out of your inbox and set it up to come back into your inbox the next day, later that week or on a certain date and time. If there’s an email reminding you of an important deadline you can use boomerang to ping the email back to your inbox – meaning that it appears as an unread email at the top of your inbox – a day or so before the deadline. Then action it at the appropriate time or flag it up for action using Active Inbox.
Make The Right Impression
Active Inbox and Boomerang have made me very efficient and it means I never miss a deadline or forget to follow-up with someone. Following up when you say you will is one of the most “no brainer”, yet oft-forgotten business success secrets because most people just don’t do it. Use these tools to stand out in the eyes of your clients.
Remember The Milk
The third “can’t live without” time management tool is Remember The Milk .
This free tool is extremely easy to use and allows you to keep track of tasks by due date, project and priority. What I love is that is syncs seamlessly between gmail, tablets or ipads and iphones or androids using the google chrome extension and android app. The beauty of Remember The Milk is its simplicity.
If you’re a gmail user who has a gmail “gadget” (you can see it under Settings & Gadgets within gmail) which means you can link tasks to your gmail calendar. Seamlessly coordinate your scheduling, tasks and priorities for the week.
Plus a new app means that you can set the Remember The Milk task bar to appear alongside your gmail inbox, so you know what needs to be done that day, week or month. Updating your tasks from within Remember The Milk task bar in Gmail will automatically sync with all the other applications, because it’s cloud based.
Time To Get Organised
So, if you’re feeling overwhelmed or could use some tools to get yourself organised and increase your productivity try out one or all of the three suggested here. I use certain features of all of them to develop an efficient time management system that works for me. That’s the beauty of these free apps. You can try them out at no cost and mix and match the features that work for you.
I’d love to hear your time management techniques? Leave a comment with your top Time Management tip.