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Your Guide to Getting Productive with Gmail: Apps & Extensions

Your Guide to Getting Productive with Gmail: Apps & Extensions

Email Couch Potato: Get Productive with Gmail

    We’ve covered the basics of productive email use with Gmail. By now, with an average email load, you should be able to power through it all within 15 minutes. But that doesn’t mean you can’t cut down on even more time, or make Gmail an even more powerful application, with the help of a few browser extensions and even some desktop applications.

    To quickly recap: in part one we looked at consolidating your accounts. We configured each email account you own to send messages down the pipes and into your Gmail account. We configured your Gmail account so you would have the ability to reply to those messages while still making it look like you replied from the address the message was initially sent to. Read part one here.

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    In part two, we looked at managing the flow of email and information quickly, efficiently, effectively, and hopefully, permanently. To achieve this we developed a processing work flow for all incoming email, set up a series of filters and decided on a set of labels to categorize your messages. Read part two here.

    Firefox Browser Extensions

    Firefox browser extensions are perhaps the easiest and most common way to interface with and enhance Gmail. Fortunately, Firefox browser extensions work with most browsers that have been built on Firefox. I use Flock, for instance, which can handle the majority of them.

    GTDInbox turns Gmail into a task manager as well as a mail manager. As discussed in previous articles in this series, it’s important to turn emails into actions – GTDInbox helps you achieve this. GTDInbox also features some cool personal information management features. Check it out here.

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    Gina Trapani’s Better Gmail Greasemonkey script compilation provides a variety of very useful features for Gmail such as keyboard macros and attachment reminders (a lifesaver if ever I saw one). Works anywhere Greasemonkey works.

    DragDropUpload makes the Gmail interface seem more integrated with your operating system by enabling drag and drop attachment uploading, instead of having to use the Browse button. Handy especially if you’ve got a lot of folders to dig through. Check it out here.

    Gmail Loader takes mbox archives and a whole range of other email archive formats and empties them into Gmail. The Web site even mentions the developer’s intention to build in Outlook PST support, which would’ve been handy when I first switched to a Mac – finding a way to get all the data in my PST across was one of the hardest parts of switching. Gmail Loader is a fantastic way to get old email archives in a searchable format, or just backed up in the cloud. Take a look.

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    It can get really annoying when your browser keeps insisting that you use a desktop application to handle mailto links. GmailTo is a Greasemonkey script that solves this problem by forcing Firefox to open mailto: links in Gmail as new messages. Check it out here.

    We did our best to get all your email accounts funneling down into your one Gmail account, but there are always going to be times when you don’t have a choice but to keep certain accounts separate. Gmail Manager is a Firefox add-on that handles multiple Gmail accounts, keeping you notified of new messages and various other statistics in each one.

    Desktop Applications

    Although web apps are all the rage these days, desktop applications still form the basis of the computing experience and are important to most people’s daily work flow. Thus it’s only natural that we’d need a few desktop apps to augment and enhance our use of Gmail.

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    The Gmail Notifier is Google’s official desktop application for Windows and Mac OS X. Its function is simple: notify you when you’ve got new mail. I don’t actually use notifiers because I find they distract me from my work, but if you’re the kind of person who must be notified of new messages, or perhaps have to respond to clients immediately, a notifier could be handy. Check it out here. For Linux users, there’s an alternative here.

    Mail, Entourage, Outlook, or Thunderbird are all incredibly useful. I like the Gmail interface so I don’t recommend a desktop client for actual use, but they do make it easier to keep an offline backup of your messages. Especially when you make purchases, send and receive invoices and liaise with clients via emails, keeping a backup can turn out incredibly useful even years down the track (especially should legal problems arise).

    A text expansion utility will be insanely useful. These aren’t Gmail or email specific applications, but they will boost your email productivity by a long, long way. I recommend trying TextExpander for Mac and PhraseExpress for Windows. If you’re not fond of those apps, there’s always Typinator (Mac) and FastFox (Win) as alternatives.

    And finally, Skype. Some conversations do, rarely, exceed the scope of email. I think any good communicator should be able to handle just about any conversation through email, but on occasion it might get too complicated because of the technical nature of the subject matter. Or perhaps the complexity is because of the personal nature of the communication, in which case one has to wonder why on earth you’re using the Internet to have that conversation. In any case, that’s when you know it’s time to jump onto Skype and sort it out. Or, get in the car and do it face-to-face.

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    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    The Gentle Art of Saying No

    No!

    It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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    But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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    What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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    But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

    1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
    2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
    3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
    4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
    5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
    6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
    7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
    8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
    9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
    10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

    Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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