Time Saving versus Bending Over Backwards

bendingbackwards_smI’ve worked with many clients over the years who have wanted me to help them set up their client scheduling system — whether it’s creating a system for existing clients or one for booking strategy sessions.

And an area that has come up regularly is that of using a service such as TimeTrade to get clients to self-schedule. Getting clients to self-schedule is such a HUGE time-saver as it eliminates the back and forth of emails.

Basically a client, or potential client, has access to your availability (not your calendar). They then compare their schedule to your availability and when they find a suitable time slot they will go ahead and book that time with you. It’s all automated, and both you and your client receive an email notification of the appointment. See what a huge time-saver it is!

As I was working with one of my clients to help her get this system set up for her strategy sessions, she emailed me to ask if she had allowed enough availability on her calendar — this is something I get asked a lot.

My response to her was,

“I think as long as you have some open time slots at various times throughout the week, i.e. mornings and afternoons and, more importantly, they’re a good fit for your schedule, then you’re fine. In this global age it’s important to keep in mind time zone differences, so by offering some variation you will accommodate as many different time zones as possible.”

She then went on to ask me if she should say something like, “if none of these time slots work, email me for additional times”?

My answer was a big NO-NO! And here’s why,

1) Remember the huge time-saver I said this process was at the start of the article? Well, if you go down the route of offering for a potential client to email you if none of your available times work, it’s going to result in that emailing back and forth to find a suitable time. Bang goes your time saving system!

2) If you and a potential client are having problems now identifying a suitable time for a strategy session, what’s it going to be like if you do start working together. Do it once … and you open yourself up to more of the same.

For many of us when we start our business it’s because we want to achieve a specific life style, and it’s important that we create boundaries around our business and lifestyle. There have been many instances over the years where I’ve let clients push my boundaries, and it’s come back to bite me on the bum! So when I share this information with you, I’m doing so from experience, and this is why I run quite a tight ship now.

Questions? Post in the comments section below—I answer all questions personally.

Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Find out if you have the right systems in place for your business with Tracey’s free quiz, “Is Your Business Set Up To Fail?” at http://bizsuccessquiz.com

Simple Email Management With The New Gmail Tabs

Organize your emails with GmailBeing an online business management expert, I felt I should address this whole “Gmail tab” hoopla that seems to have had list owners in a panic for the past couple of weeks.

If you’ve received one of those very desperate-sounding “if you want to continue to receive my emails, move me to the Primary tab” emails, then you’ll know exactly what I mean!

I am a Gmail user myself and switched over from Outlook about two years ago. I love Gmail. I have all of my emails organized and sorted, and have Labels/Filters all set up so that as soon as an email hits my Inbox, it gets the appropriate label and moved into the right folder. (If you would like to know how to do that, click here for instructions.)

Okay, so first let’s address those emails that have been sent out…

1. They sound desperate! They are of no service at all to the recipient, and are sent entirely from the list owner’s perspective.

2. Segment Your List. If you are going to send out such an email, then make sure you send it only to the Gmail users on your list. If you don’t know how to do this, ask your VA to do it for you. If she doesn’t know how to do this, time for a new VA!

3. A better option. Instead of telling the recipient to move the list owner’s emails into the Primary tab, educate and inform them on what these new Gmail tabs mean, and why they’re designed the way they are. For example: the new tabs mean that your emails are automatically organized; it will make your life easier. The recipient will appreciate something that is useful and informative rather than a desperate-sounding email.

Many business owners (and email users in general) suffer from email overload. All of their emails land in their inboxes in one huge, messy glob, with no organization or filtering mechanisms in place. This means important emails are likely to get missed; half of the emails remain unread because there are just too many to work through, etc. etc.

These new tabs have been designed to automatically sort your emails as they come in to your Inbox, which makes seeing your emails and reading them so much easier. For example, if all of your newsletters that you subscribe to end up in your Promotions tab … great! They are all there together in one place ready for you to read when you have time. I have a similar set up already in my Gmail, in that all of the newsletters I subscribe to get filtered and moved to my newsletters folder. I manually set this up for each newsletter I subscribe to; Gmail is now doing this automatically for you via the Promotions tab.

This is just one example of how the new Gmail tabs can make managing your emails so much simpler, which means less overwhelm for you.

My advice to you if you’re a Gmail user and these new tabs have been rolled out into your account, play around with the tabs. Drag and drop your emails into the right tab so that it makes sense for you. My good friend, Rob Schultz, has put together this amusing info graphic on how to do this. You can take a look at it here.

And if you really don’t like the new set up, you can always revert back to the original settings … the new Gmail tabs are not mandatory!

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Tracey LawtonAbout the author: Online Business Development Strategist, Tracey Lawton, teaches life coaches, business coaches, and virtual assistants how to become more organized, streamlined, and automated so that they don’t constantly bottleneck projects and processes. Having the right systems in place leads to consistent revenues, more clients, and less stress and overwhelm. Find out if you have the right systems in place for your business with Tracey’s free quiz, “Is Your Business Set Up To Fail?” at http://bizsuccessquiz.com


Top Tips and Tools For Managing Emails

Earlier this week a client email me asking, “Do you have 2 separate email accounts, one for business and one for personal. That’s what I have right now, but I am wondering if I should merge my email into one account, my business account. What do you suggest?”

This was a great question because I know many of you struggle with managing your emails on a day-to-day basis.

And to answer this client’s question, I have many separate email addresses (both for business and personal) but EVERYTHING comes down into my one Gmail account.

Let me share a little more about how I’ve got everything organized and why…

I was actually a die-hard Outlook fan for many years and strongly resisted the temptation to switch to the latest *hot* email system simply because I loved many of the features that Outlook offers, especially the ability to automatically organize emails as they come into your inbox through the use of Rules and Filters.

However, this past year I have traveled an awful lot (both business and personal) and each time I travel I take my laptop with me. Side note: In my office I work off a desktop PC because I prefer that way of working. So, each time I travel I set up an email forward at my server to automatically forward all my emails to my Gmail account so that I can still access emails while I’m traveling.

The downside to this is when I do get back to my office I have to reverse the process and I find that some of the emails I need to reference are actually in my Gmail account … so it takes me a while to get organized again. Not very productive!

So the upshot this past Fall, was that I took the decision to switch permanently over to Gmail … and now I’M LOVIN’ IT!! It did take me a while to get all my filters/labels set up, but once that’s done everything runs so much more smoothly. And I also have complete access to my Gmail and Calendar on my Android phone too!

Your Action Steps for This Week

What’s you current email system set up? Is it efficient and streamlined? Do you use automatic filtering to organize your emails?

Take a look at what you’re currently doing and then click through to any of the articles below to help you create a more streamlined and automated email management system.

And also don’t forget to post your comments and questions below each article … all questions happily answered!

Outlook Users:

Create Rules and Folders for Simple Email Management

Warning! Don’t Let Your Outllook.pst Folder Get Too Large

How To Create An Effective Email Signature

Gmail Users:

Create Filters and Labels for Quick and Easy Email Organization

Filtering Unread Emails

General Email Management:

What To Do About Managing Your Emails Before Its Too Late

5 Top Tips for Managing Your Emails

And if you’ve found any of these articles and tips helpful, please share with your social networks.

Outlook Tip: Create Rules and Folders for Simple Email Management

Do you get a ton of emails each day? Does it take you nearly all day just to sift through them to find out which ones you need to deal with now, which ones can be dealt with later, or which ones are just junk?

OutlookIf this is you, then read on for some tips on organizing your Inbox so that you spend less time sifting through the junk and more time on the emails that need your attention now!

These tips below are based on using Outlook and Outlook Express, but if you don’t use either of these email programs, just let me know the one that you do use and I’ll find out how to do it!

First you need to create a set of folders within your Inbox. For example, I belong to several different networking groups and receive daily emails from all of them. Within my Inbox I have a folder for each client, and individual folders for each networking group that I belong to.

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To create a new folder

  1. Right click your Inbox and select New Folder
  2. Give your new folder a unique name, for example I have an AUKVA folder for the Alliance of UK Virtual Assistants.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 above for each new folder that you wish to create – do one for every group/person that you receive regular emails from.

Now that you have your set of new folders, you now need to create a Rule that will tell Outlook/Outlook Express that when emails are received from XXXXXX you want them to automatically go into XXXXXX folder.

To create a Rule

In order to explain this, let’s assume that I am going to create a rule for all my AUKVA emails to go directly into my AUKVA folder:

  1. Go to Tools —> Rules Wizard —> New
  2. Now choose which type of Rule you want to create. In this case I would choose ‘Check messages when they arrive‘. Choose Next.
  3. Select the conditions for your rule. In this case, I would choose ‘Where the subject line contains specific words‘ because all my AUKVA emails have AUKVA in the subject line. However, if you are setting up this rule for receiving emails from a particular person, then choose ‘From people or distribution list’.
  4. Now you have to enter specific words. Click on the hyperlink ‘specific words‘ in the box below and enter your criteria. In this case I would enter AUKVA and Choose OK. Choose Next.
  5. Now you have to say what you want Outlook to do with these messages. In this case, I would choose ‘Move to a specified folder‘. The procedure is the same as in Step 4 above, click on the hyperlink ‘specified folder’ in the box below and select the folder where you want your messages to go. In this case I would choose my newly created AUKVA folder, which is situated within my Inbox. Choose OK. Choose Next.
  6. If there are any exceptions to your rule, add them here. Choose Next.
  7. Now give your Rule a name. Ensure that the ‘Turn on this Rule‘ is checked and click Finish.

Tada! – You’re done!

Now repeat steps 1-7 above, creating a separate Rule for each new folder that you’ve created. Next time you receive emails they will automatically be filtered into the appropriate folders. You will be able to see which emails need to be dealt with immediately, and which you can leave till later to read.

The emails that will appear in your Inbox will just be those that do not have a rule associated with them, or are junk mail. This will make them much easier and quicker to sift through.
2011 (c) Tracey Lawton

FREE Online Business & Marketing Systems Checklist
Access your 26-point Online Business Management & Marketing SYSTEMS CHECKLIST 
Click here for immediate access

Gmail Tip: Filtering Unread Emails

I’m not a huge fan of Gmail and only use it when I’m travelling (I much prefer Outlook to run my business), but these past two weeks I’ve had to rely on Gmail a lot as I’m back in the UK due to a family emergency.

Organize your emails with GmailSo, along with that has come some additional learning … not a bad thing though, eh? One of the ‘problems’ I found in working with Gmail is that I want to be able to quickly and easily view my unread emails. It’s easy enough to do in your Inbox; you simply choose to have all of your unread emails sit at the top of your Inbox.

Problem solved!

Not quite…

You see, I’ve set up quite  few different filters to organize my client’s workload and the problems came when I wanted to view just the unread emails in those filtered emails – I didn’t have the option to have all unread emails appear at the top in my filtered inboxes.  However, after a bit of research, I found a simple solution:

In the search email box at the top you simply add this search term:

label:[name of filter] label:unread

And voila!  My unread emails are now filtered and I can quickly and easily deal with them.