One of the biggest challenges most business owners face these days is keeping all of the various plates of commitments, appointments, tasks, delegation, follow-up and communication gently spinning in the air.
A great deal of energy is consumed just trying to remember what you’ve got to do next and how to check all the various places you’ve made commitments.
If you’re like me, much of what goes on in your world revolves around email. It’s become the center of a great deal of my communication and how I schedule meetings, follow-up with prospects and clients, and assign tasks in the office.
Unfortunately, without a system, email management can suck the life out of you.
To keep things running smoothly, I’ve spent some time hooking together various tools that help me stay productive and meet my commitments without having to keep my brain connected to email full time. Below is my set of tools.
Phone to Email
For me, phone messages represent another portal of communication and are hard to wrangle into my email based system unless they are turned into emails. I use a tool called Grasshopper to act as a virtual PBX and this tool also turns voicemail into email and forwards mp3 recordings. Google Voice and Jott offer this as well.
Email Auto Reminder
The toughest challenge I faced in email management was scheduling follow-up emails. I get and send a lot of email that involve some sort of follow-up to check in with someone or the schedule a future appointment. I also send queries to people that ask me to follow-up in a month or two. A new service call NudgeMail handles this brilliantly.
NudgeMail is an email reminder service, but works in a unique way that makes it a key tool for me. If I receive or send an email to or from someone and determine that I need to follow-up in a few weeks, I simply send or forward the email to NudgeMail with a date set-up in the subject and I’ll get a reminder email on that date and time with the content of the email included. This may be one of the most important innovations I’ve encountered in a long time. It’s so simple yet indispensible.
Shared calendars have become an essential feature of most offices, particularly today’s virtual offices, and tools like Google Calendar or the more fully integrated Google Apps for Business make this a snap.
This way you can offer appointment times publicly or allow a staff member to do all of your scheduling during the open times you allocate.
I also use the Jott tool that allows me to schedule appointments to my Google Calendar via a phone message. This way if I make an appointment while driving down the road I can add it to the calendar with a simple phone call.
The last big piece of the puzzle is task management. It’s not uncommon for organizations to break projects into tasks and spread those tasks across a team. Today’s online project management suites make project management and collaboration for virtual and office based teams much easier to manage.
The feature I enjoy and use most however, is the ability to assign tasks on the fly via email. It’s not uncommon for me, or any business owner, to spend a few hours at the office over a weekend. In those sessions I come up with dozens of tasks that I want to delegate to my staff of virtual team members.
Most online project and task management suites such Central Desktop and MavenLink allow you to create tasks and assign them to team members via email. By using the tool’s email set-up you simply email the task to a team member and it’s created and tracked in the task manager online simultaneously.
Harnessing the various moving parts triggered by email is an essential productivity hurdle that can be addresses rather elegantly with the right technology system.
Image credit: travlinman43
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant and author of Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine.