Posted in Personal Skills, Time Management, Work From Home

Using Gmail Efficiently: 6 Tips for Maximizing Your Inbox

I try to keep my email inbox at zero or as close to zero as possible at all times. During the day, the emails that are still there serve as my to-do list of sorts. I work through at certain times throughout the day and make a plan to address it on the spot. I also do not like to have email on my phone. I find that I get distracted by the numbers and notifications and then I’ll read it and have to go back through it on my computer later anyway.

Gmail is my preferred email provider and has been for over 15 years. Thankfully, my job also uses Gmail so I can keep settings consistent across all my accounts. I have several accounts for different purposes. Although many people prefer to sync all of their email accounts, I actually like keeping them separate. It helps me compartmentalize the different tasks I have to do whether it be for school, personal, teaching, or entrepreneurial endeavors. And by having a separate teaching email account, I never miss a student question or concern because it doesn’t get lost in the many other emails I get on a daily basis.


Here are my top 6 tips for using Gmail efficiently

1. Compact View with Conversation Threading Off

I prefer the compact view the best in my inbox screen. I know a lot of people prefer to use the conversation view to group emails together, but I tend to get confused in threads and have to go back to figure out what was said. By using the compact view, I do not miss any comments on any emails that are sent because each one shows up separately in my inbox. The compact view is nice because you can see more emails at a glance since the space is reduced between each one.

2. Smart Compose On

In the general settings, I use smart compose, grammar, spelling, and autocorrect. In fact, it’s kind of scary how accurate the smart compose is. It allows me to respond to emails faster because it predicts what I might say when I start a sentence. If I agree with the response, then I just click enter and keep typing the next portion of my email. I’ll all about ways to save myself time, but still write a quality and professional email response to someone.

3. Using Folders

I go through my emails several times per day. Once it is filed or completed, it goes immediately into a folder. In my personal email, I have folders for advisory boards I serve on, billing information, doctor information, organizations I’m involved with, and much more. Pretty much any activity has its own folder and that’s where the email lives after it has been addressed. It makes it much easier for me to find things later and know that I didn’t delete anything.

4. Setting up Filters

This setting is helpful if you get frequent emails from a specific person or organization. You can create a label and a filter for that person. It can be color coded and make it easier to stand out in your email inbox. Once you receive an email that you may want to filter, you can click the three dots at the top and then choose how you wish to filter that type of email in the future.

5. Schedule Send

I love to use schedule send when I am trying to send an email that needs a response from other people. I tend to draft emails later in the day during one of my work time blocks. However, if it’s getting close to 4:00 or 5:00pm, I don’t send the email right away. I schedule it to send at 8:00am the next morning so that it goes to the top of that person’s inbox. Now they may have a great management system, but I’ve found that a lot people have thousands of unread emails in their inbox and may miss things, especially if they are very busy. The other great use for schedule send is to give myself reminders. Even though I keep a pretty good list of action items in my digital app, it’s helpful when I have important reminders that I don’t want to forget. For example, I needed to mention someone’s retirement at a workshop and I scheduled the email reminder to myself to come up during the week I would be preparing the agenda. I have learned that no matter how much I think I’m going to remember something, it is much better to have a plan and be prepared than to rely on my memory of something someone said 3 months prior.

6. SNOOZE!

This feature is my ultimate favorite use of my Gmail settings for efficiency. It is especially useful for maintaining a zero inbox. When I go through my emails throughout the day, if it is something that I don’t have time or is not urgent to respond to, I will snooze it to the next day. Sometimes the emails are informational relating to an upcoming meeting later in the week or the following week. I then snooze it to the day I plan to review the agenda or that the information is most needed. Therefore, it stays out of my inbox, but it’s not filed in a folder yet because it’s still relevant.

Posted in Personal Skills, Time Management, Work From Home

Ways to Create a To-Do List: Methods to Get Stuff Done!

Do you often make it through the day just putting out fires as they occur, trying to keep up? Creating and sticking to a schedule can help with managing time effectively. One helpful tool is to create a to-do list of action items that you need to get done. Over the years, I’ve tried different methods of writing a to-do list, which have worked for various purposes depending on my goals at the time.

Why is it important to make to-do lists?

Making lists and prioritizing tasks helps you become more likely to accomplish your goals and reach your dreams. It also provides a way to track your progress and keep you motivated to move forward. To-do lists are great for both personal and professional use. You can use a paper and pen notebook to track it all or there are lots of great digital apps to organize tasks by category.

I’ll share some of the methods I’ve used to create to-do lists with you here.


THE EVERYTHING LIST

I like to call this list the everything list because it’s more or less a brain dump of all that has to be done. Sometimes I make columns for personal and work action items to keep them separate, but I just get it all down on paper (or digital). I’ve seen others refer to this method as the grocery list method because it’s just basically keeping a running tab of tasks as they pop into your brain.

Top Three to Five

For me, this method is helpful when I’m feeling overwhelmed. Instead of literally writing everything down that needs to get done, I write 3-5 MANAGEABLE items at a time. Then, when I’m able to cross them all off, I write 3-5 more items to accomplish. It’s comparable to time blocking a schedule. It’s focusing me to be intentional about what I want to accomplish within a certain timeframe.

Prioritized List

This method takes the everything method and then rearranges it based on your priorities. It’s easier to do this with a digital task management system because you can easily cut and paste the items and move them up and down on your list. One way to prioritize is to use the Eisenhower matrix. Some people even recommend a simple lettering system next to your tasks with A being the most important item to tackle first.

Big and Small

This type of a to-do list breaks task into big and small tasks. You can think of them in time commitment. If it’s something like sending an email that will take 5 minutes to write, that could be considered a small task. If it’s completing an annual report, that might be a bigger task. Sometimes it’s more helpful to break up those big tasks into smaller ones and cross of those milestones as you reach them.

No matter how you organize your tasks, the best thing to do is find what works for you. The physical act of crossing something off on paper to me feels so good that even though I manage my longer term and ongoing tasks in a digital app, I still create a daily list of items that need to get done. I also try to keep it realistic so as not to get disappointed if I don’t get everything crossed off my list.

Happy to-do-ing!

Posted in Technology Tips, Work From Home

My Favorite Google Calendar Settings and Features

Settings and Sharing

Since I use my Google Calendar for all of my professional and personal tasks, I share it with anyone who might need to get a hold of me or schedule something. However, I do not necessarily need them to see all of the event details, so I choose the option of just Free/Busy.

Notifications

Normally, I don’t like to have a lot of notifications coming through on my email, but I do have some calendar notifications set up. If something is changed or canceled, I do like the email to come through so I’m aware of it and don’t just happen to notice it missing from my calendar at a later time. Another helpful notification is to get a daily agenda from your calendar emailed to you.

Color Coding Events

Originally, I utilized the create calendar feature to make a separate calendar for each of my activities. But then I realized if I was using the share calendar feature to alert people to my availability I would have to then share all of those calendars with them. So although it takes a second longer when I create an event. After I make it on my calendar, I right click the event and then change the color to match my coding for that activity. Then, at a glance, I can see what responsibilities I have for my freelance work, my teaching, and my school.

Multiple Time Zones

Another setting you can utilize on the calendar is to have more than one time zone displayed. This is helpful if you have to coordinate meetings with people who live in a different area. I have to do this and so I have two different time zones on my calendar to make it easier for me to plan meetings with others.

Overall, I find Google Calendar simple and user friendly. I like that I can access it on all my devices and put everything in one place!

Posted in Goal, Personal Skills, Time Management, Work From Home

Mastering the Power of Effective Scheduling: Some Tips to Make it Happen

Some people say that I’m a planner. Others say I’m calendar-oriented. Really, I just like to make sure that my time, tasks, and priorities are all reflected on my schedule. When someone asks me to do something and I agree (also power in saying no), I immediately add it to my Google Calendar, which can be accessed on my phone, iPad, and laptop. No matter where I am I have access to it.

If it is a work or professional meeting, I copy the Zoom or webinar link from the email and paste it directly into the calendar event that I create so that I do not have to search for the email when it’s time to log in.

Clarify your goals

It is important to know what you want to accomplish with your time. You cannot create an effective schedule if you don’t know what you are aiming for. I wrote a post on mini-goals here. Get specific on the main areas of your life and figure out the chunks of time that need to be spent on each.

Prioritize your tasks

When you sit down to work, or even at the beginning of every day, take a look at everything that needs to be accomplished. What is that one thing that can’t be put off? Do that first, in the morning if you can. For longer term projects, break it down into smaller deadlines and place those on your calendar. If you’re not sure how to prioritize, consider using a strategy like the Eisenhower Matrix.


Utilize a digital calendar like Google Calendar

Keep a calendar that can be accessed from all of your digital devices: laptop, phone, iPad, etc. That way, you always have access to what you need in the moment if someone asks to schedule something. Personally, because I work several part time jobs and manage my own schedule, I keep one Google Calendar for everything and color code by activity, including my personal commitments. For example, if a friend texts me and says, “hey, we should catch up on the phone Thursday around 8pm.” If I’m free, I actually confirm and add that to my calendar so I don’t forget to call or accidentally make plans to do something else because I forgot we were going to chat.

At work, I utilize my email kind of like a to do list. I try to check my email at certain points throughout the day, but if something comes on that I need to take care of that day or later in the week, I also add it to my calendar and include the reference email.

Learn to Say “Let Me Get Back to You”

If you’re a kind-hearted person who wants to follow through with helping people or do a good job, you’ll be tempted to say yes to everyone and everything. That is not a realistic way to manage a schedule because you will quickly become overwhelmed. However, instead of saying no right away, give yourself some think time when someone asks you to do something or for another meeting or a favor. Evaluate if it fits with your goals and priorities or fits in any extra time you have available for leisure. If not, perhaps you may have to decline or ask the person to check in with you at a later date.

These are just some of the strategies that I use on a regular basis to maintain my schedule. Please leave a comment if you’d like to hear more about any of them!

Posted in Time Management, Work From Home

Using the Eisenhower Matrix to Prioritize Your Tasks

If you clicked on this article, you were drawn in by the prospect of prioritizing your tasks. Maybe you don’t know what the Eisenhower Matrix is, but you liked the Matrix movies and you kind of remembered that Eisenhower was a president or something. No worries – I am here to help you out with this strategy of prioritizing the tasks to be completed.

History of the Eisenhower Matrix

Other names for this matrix include the decision matrix or important/urgent matrix, but ultimately came from a quote by President Dwight Eisenhower.

I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

https://woven.com/blog/the-eisenhower-matrix

From this quote, people took away the fact that there are four main categories that our tasks and activities fall into: urgent/important, urgent/not important, important/not urgent, and not important/not urgent. Although inspired by the quote from Eisenhower, the concept became popularized by Stephen Covey.

How Do We Use the Matrix?

Red pill or blue pill you say? Well, let’s take a look at something that could alter how you think about prioritizing your tasks. First, ask yourself if everything seems urgent and the world is constantly on fire. If you answered yes to that question, then utilizing this strategy could benefit your planning and reduce stress in your life.

When you have a new task pop up in your personal or professional life, before acting on it, take a moment to pause and decide which box it belongs in. If it truly is urgent, like your kid fell outside and hit their head, then of course handle it in the moment. If it’s a work email on a Saturday morning that doesn’t really have to be handled until Monday, well … can you pause and save it for Monday?

You can do this on a daily or weekly basis, but I find it to be helpful to periodically go through my big tasks and move them to different boxes depending on what needs to be accomplished. Here is an example of a diagram you could create to visualize your task management:

You’ll notice there is a box for the not important and not urgent tasks that says to delete. I prefer to look at this box as “in moderation” or evaluate shortcuts and strategies to become more efficient. Do I really need to get the CVS newsletter emailed to me every day? Probably not. In which case, I can delete it by unsubscribing and freeing up that inbox space and mental space. I wrote another post about email tips if you’re interested in checking that out.

So, next time someone asks you to do something or you feel that pressure that everything at work is urgent, decide if it is both urgent and important before you act. If it is, go for it. If it’s not urgent, but still important, add it to your calendar for later in the day or in the week, but don’t forget about it. That’s why the matrix says to schedule it.


You can order these super cool daily sticky notes to keep yourself organized and prioritize each day:

Sources:

https://woven.com/blog/the-eisenhower-matrix

Product Plan Glossary

*Links to products are affiliate links

Posted in Manifestation, Personal Skills, Work From Home

Starting a YouTube Channel: My Top 4 Goals To Get Started

I’m venturing into new things for 2021 and one of them is starting a YouTube channel. I have to admit, the writing for a blog is a bit easier for me than the speaking on camera. I think that’s probably why I’ve written more blog posts than I’ve posted videos.

Here are my 2021 YouTube Goals:

1. Get to 1000 subscribers

This is the level that YouTube says you need to start becoming monetized on YouTube. Not only do you need 1000 subscribers, but you also need 4000 watch hours. Hopefully, I’ll get to between 1000 and 100,000 subscribers by December 31, 2021.

2. Become more comfortable on video

I would like to become more comfortable and self confident on video. There is a lot of fear and anxiety associated with this new project, but I really want to work through this. I want to challenge myself to do this and inspire others to try new things and go after their dreams or goals.

3. Learn video editing skills

I am currently using iMovie for my recording through my Macbook. My skills are limited at the moment, but I hope to continue improving with each video that I make. I will learn as I go and continue to get better as I learn more about video editing.

4. Consistency

There is no growth without consistency. I will have to make a goal to post at least one video per video, if not more. So, that means I have to find out what topics would be interesting to talk about and make content. For now, I’m going to focus on the things I enjoy sharing with others and continue to improve my presenting and video editing skills.


If you’d like to check out the YouTube video where I talk about these goals, here it is!

Posted in Time Management, Work From Home

What I Learned From Time Blocking My Schedule

There was a period of about 3-4 months when my schedule was extremely busy. I was juggling three different jobs and my own school work. Not to mention, it was the middle of a pandemic and I was packing up my personal belongings to move to a different state as well. I’m usually very good about managing my time using Google calendar and my to-do lists, but I knew I needed something extra if I was going to make sure everything got done.

I did some research on time blocking and adapted it to fit my needs. How many people approach time blocking is to keep a consistent schedule and do similar tasks in that block. For example:

7am-9am – Morning routine/family

9am-11am – Emails/meetings

11am-1pm – Lunch/ light to-do list items

1pm-3pm – Projects/deep thinking

3pm-5pm – Meetings/weekly planning

And so on. It could change daily or be a set weekly routine that someone follows.


I took this idea and combined it with keeping a calendar to schedule out everything that I had to do for the week and I did this every week. I color coded it by the job or task. Here is an example of one of my weeks.

As you can see, I worked quite a bit during that time. Thankfully, my schedule is a little bit lighter now so I don’t have to schedule so strict. However, this method really worked for me when I was juggling a lot of things all at once. The blue was my personal time to do whatever tasks or downtime I needed. I should mention I worked from home through all of this so it was easy to switch between jobs because it was often just a browser or device switch.


I certainly took breaks to get water, coffee, and use the bathroom. I followed good protocol to stand up at least once per hour and rest my eyes from the screen every 20 minutes. So while I didn’t follow this schedule every week to the exact second, I stuck to it pretty closely, and it really helped me accomplish everything without feeling overwhelmed. Every day, I prioritized the tasks that needed to be done that day and followed through on those items to the best extent possible. I had a weekly accountability call with a friend on Sundays to discuss our goals for the week and keep us focused.

Another thing that helped was scheduling times to check my email. Many days I have email open in the background and respond as messages come in if I’m not too busy. However, on days or weeks when I know I will be very busy working on projects, reports, and meetings, I schedule checking email into my calendar. That way, I have the tab closed so it’s not distracting me from my work, but I know I’ll get to it because I’ve prioritized time to deal with it.

I will definitely use this method again during busy seasons of my life!

Posted in Blogging, Personal Skills

What I’m Learning About Starting a Blog in 2021

I wanted to start this blog to share information about what I already know and what I’m learning as well as create a potential outlet for passive income in the future. What I’m finding is that I enjoy writing posts and learning about the technical side of building a website and this really could be more than a side passion if I put my mind to it. So, one of the things I’m learning is actually how to get this blog going in the first place to build it into something meaningful. I’ve done research by watching YouTube videos and being an expert Googler, but there are still some things that I’m working on. Here are some things that I learned so far:

1. Building Traffic – difference between views and likes

I’m using WordPress premium as my hosting platform. Now that I have about 20 posts on the blog, I’m getting consistent notifications about likes on my posts, which is very exciting. I thought that would immediately translate into more views, but that is not the case. So of course, I Googled it to find out what was going on. It turns on out that most of my readers are viewing the posts through WordPress Reader and liking it there and not actually clicking on the blog itself. So even though the posts are being liked, I’m not getting very many views.

2. Building Traffic – Advertising

Now, I’m thinking how do I even let people know about the blog in the first place? I’ve mostly been using Pinterest and creating pins using Canva. I experimented with Pinterest Ads, but it was too expensive and I didn’t get enough clicks to make it worth my while yet. Here is an example of a pin I made for one of my blog posts. I’m considering starting a Twitter account to post tips of the day and drive traffic from there.

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

This is probably the part I still have the most to learn about. The actual building of the site came pretty easily to me since I’ve had to build sites for school projects before. There are a number of websites that let you search for keywords, but the biggest piece of advice I’ve found is to search for long tail keywords that have lower competition. So, perhaps it’s being search 1,000 times a month, but there aren’t many articles written about that particular topic. Turns out the types of things I like to write about are wildly popular and written about all the time. This is definitely an area of improvement that I’ll keep learning about it and working on for future posts.

4. Revenue – making money from the blog

I’ve watched tons of YouTube videos and read other blog posts to try and figure this one out. It seems you need a combination of advertising, affiliate links, sponsored ads, and even your own personalized premium content. Well, I certainly have lots of ideas and things in the works, but it’s not going to happen overnight. So, for now I’m just utilizing the WordPress Ads that is built in to the site functions and some Amazon affiliate links. For transparency, my site ran about 450 ads in February and it generated a revenue of $0.04 and about 1000 ads in March for a revenue of $0.01. Obviously, I was disappointed with the lower number this month even with higher views, so I searched what could be going on. It seems that advertisers might be bidding lower prices for space and my content just hasn’t had enough time to saturate. That’s okay. I actually have a 15-18 month plan in place and this is just the start.

I wanted to share some of the things I’m learning about building a blog here with you in this post. Feel free to drop a comment with any tips you have. Let’s help each other!

Posted in Technology Tips, Work From Home

Do you still go to the store to buy ink for your printer?

I was having a conversation with my friend today and she was complaining about having to go buy ink for her printer. She needed to print some things for work, but had just run out of ink. Well, I solved this issue years ago.

I started using HP Instant Ink in 2016. The first plan I chose was $9.99/month for 300 pages, which is the frequent printing plan, which is now $11.99/month. The great thing is that I’m able to monitor my usage each month and change my subscription accordingly. So, now my subscription is for $2.99/month for up to 50 pages. This is due to a concerted effort to move to digital preservation whenever possible.

The great thing about HP Instant Ink is that with the subscription I never have to go to the store to buy ink. It’s connected to my wireless HP Envy printer. It knows when my ink is running low and mails it to me. I am then able to mail my blank ink cartridges back for recycling free of charge.

The whole process is so easy and automated. If I need to print more, I can increase my subscription pages or if I need to print less, I can reduce it. My online account shows exactly how many pages a month I am printing.

I highly recommend getting an HP printer and checking out HP Instant Ink!

Note: Links are affiliate links and could earn a commission.

Posted in Work From Home

Do you work from your bed?

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

At the beginning of the pandemic I’m sure many of us worked from our bed because it was comfy and convenient. If you’re still doing that, it could be taking a toll on you mentally and physically. Here are some of the tips I use that I tell my friends and students when I’m working with them:

  1. Designate a specific work space separate from where you sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping at night and constantly use the computer or scroll through your phone, you may want consider putting those down and making sure the bed is your sleep zone. For a long time, I didn’t have the luxury of a separate room so I had a tiny desk that I used in my bedroom. Then I used my kitchen table when I had my own one bedroom. Now, I’m fortunate to have an office and it has made a huge difference in my mental capacity to get work done and separate sleep and rest time.
  2. If you do work in bed, use some sort of support for your laptop like a lap desk. This helps keep it flat and cushions the surface for you underneath. I use this more when I’m on the couch and watching TV in the background if I’m doing any type of mindless work. Some people even prefer to use a laptop tray to hold their work items.
  3. Use a battery operated alarm clock and put your phone across the room at night. Resist the urge to check your phone for texts or emails when you first wake up in the morning. Most people use their phones as their alarm clock, but a simple switch to another alarm can create that barrier to get your morning started off on the right note.

*Note that links are affiliate links and provide a commission if used.