I am a serious Google fan. I admit it.
But I promise that once you learn more about how I use Google’s free tools to do more in less time, you just might learn to like Google too!
My career counselor advised me to get a Google email account (Gmail) just before I graduated with my BA from Columbia College. She said that if I created a new account that featured letters from my real name it would look more professional on my graduate school applications than the name on my personal email account.
Considering that at the time I was still using an AOL email account that I created when I was 11 years old-“nywizkid”-I decided that she might have a good point.
For years I used it simply as a free email account. But once I started my business I began exploring all the other free tools that comes with the Gmail account-and now I use them all daily.
Here is a quick summary of my favorite Google tools and how I use them. For fun, I’ve organized them in the order that I experience them every day.
As part of my morning routine, I review the calendar on my iPhone to see if there have been any changes to the day’s schedule that I need to know about. My phone calendar holds my personal calendar-that I manage from my phone-as well as my business calendar which is a Google Calendar. I can look at them both from my phone.
You might wonder how my schedule would change without me knowing. The answer is that I use YouCanBook.Me as an online scheduling system that allows potential clients, existing clients and business partners to book appointments with me online. When they schedule an appointment they can see when I am available and choose the time that works best for them. Once they pick a meeting time it is added to my calendar. This is my free virtual assistant.
Once I make it to my computer I log into Google Calendar again so I can see all the tasks that I need to do for the day. They are automatically imported from my to-do list in my free business CRM-Insightly. This also helps me stay focused.
My computer comes with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer installed, but I always ignore the big blue “e” on my desktop and go straight for green, red and yellow colored Google Chrome logo. It claims to be one of the fastest ways to search the Internet, and I have not found a reason to dispute that yet.
Once I log-in to Google Chrome, I can set up a dashboard (like my computer desktop) that is filled with shortcuts to my favorite website destinations. Everything I need is just a click away and it is easily adjusted to suit my needs as a virtual workspace.
In general, there is nothing special about email. But the thing that makes Gmail so great is that you can add-on extensions to customize it. Two of my favorite Gmail extensions are Boomerang and Boomerang Calendar.
Boomerang allows me to schedule emails that can be delivered later or schedule an email to reappear in my email inbox on another date. This means that I can write an email at 11 pm and schedule it to send the next morning at 8 am so that it has a better chance of appearing at the top of the receivers email inbox. I often attend online training webinars, so when I receive the confirmation emails I schedule it to boomerang-or reappear in my inbox-about an hour before the event as a reminder.
Boomerang Calendar takes this a step further by allowing me to automatically add any date that appears in an email to my Google Calendar with just one click-no need to switch screens to add it! I can also request meeting times in an email and allow the email recipient to simply click on the time that works best for them, and our meeting is immediately recorded on my Google Calendar.
These free tools are incredibly helpful for people who need to find ways to maximize their time.
It’s tough to beat 20 GB of free online storage. I use it to hold the back up files from my online accounting software, my website, and my CRM database. I also use it to hold files that I am working on with my authors. I can use it while I’m offline like a regular file folder on my computer, and when I’m on the Internet I can use them online too.
Google Drive files are also very easy to insert into Gmail messages to share. It simplifies file sharing and storage in a way that I can appreciate and at a price I can afford. I used to use Dropbox, but Gmail allows me to have more storage space. And when I do need to pay for more space, I get much better deals with Google Drive than with Dropbox.
Google Drive also hosts Google Docs-Google’s free version of Microsoft Word-that I also use often.
I used AOL for years before I switched to Gmail, but I am so glad that I use Gmail now.
Soon I plan to test drive Google Apps for Business for 30 days. It offers everything mentioned above-and more-that is included in the free account, but it also offers the opportunity to use an email account that is personalized to my domain name. This means that my current email account “Danielle@daniellefetherson.com” will be a Gmail account that is directly connected to all the tools I use instead of being an email account that forwards to my current Gmail account.
The other alleged benefit of paying $5/month for Google Apps for Business is that it integrates into other business tools that offer little incentives for Google Apps for Business users.
I’ll be sure to post about my experience when I finally take that test drive.
What are some of your favorite online productivity tools?
Image by: Coolcaesar (Googleplexwelcomesign.jpg) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned.