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3 Easy Tools to Manage a Chaotic Workplace

 

Keeping up with the barrage of emails we get everyday has, for many of us, become a full-time job in an of itself. Especially when you work in a client-facing type of role, missing just one email could mean real problems on your project. I have a few cool tools that I use to make life so much easier and now, I go to sleep peacefully each night with an empty inbox and happy clients.

 

Google Inbox

Google and I have a very tumultuous relationship. When it’s good, it’s awesome and when it’s bad, I come dangerously close chucking my too-expensive-to-replace laptop through my office window. Anyway, inbox is one of the things they’ve done right. For each business email, it’s $10 per user per month, much better than Outlook. No longer do you have to sift through emails to remember what you have to do. Here’s how it works. Let’s say I email you a question. Normally, I would have to set a to-do list item, mark my calendar, affix a sticky note to my monitor or whatever to remember to follow-up if you didn’t get back to me. I could ponder the deeper meaning around why you didn’t get back to me, but this isn’t a psychology article. Anywoo, nowI can simply send the message, hit snooze for when I want to be reminded again, and the email disappears from my inbox, only to reappear at the date and time I set. It’s a nice way to keep you inbox nice and tidy, while staying on top of all of the nagging tasks that pop up day in and day out.

 

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Another cool tool is the pin feature. With Google’s conversation layout, all emails in a string get lumped together. It’s good for keeping track of an ongoing conversation, but it gets quite cumbersome when the email string gets too long. (I think my record is 108 messages back and forth on one topic!) The pin feature is neat because it allows you to put a little note, reminder, or summary of the email string so when it pops back into your inbox, you know what the heck it was about! You might think you’ll remember, but trust me, you won’t! It’s worth the extra five seconds it takes to summarize the conversation.

 

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Trello

There are tons of project management tools out there, but Trello is one of the better ones.  It’s super flexible and can be used for everything from wedding planning to managing a site redesign. We obviously use it for the latter.

 

In Trello, you can create boards and in every board, you can create different categories or steps in a  process - to do, doing and done, for example. Then under each category, you can put a card that contains everything about a specific task, such as comments, to-do lists, files, deadlines, etc. No more sorting through email to find comments, approvals, etc. You can manage a project right from Trello, keeping everything all in one place. In fact, if you simply add an @ before a Trello user’s name, you can keep all conversations related to a project track in Trello and users will get an email notifying them of the comment. They can then reply to the comment from their email and it will be recorded in Trello.

 

As you make progress on a card, you simply drag it through the process. I can’t tell you how fulfilling it is to move a card to Done! What’s even better is that it has a great mobile app so you can keep up with your project on-the-go. Oh and the basic version is free! Bonus!

 

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Slack

Ever need an answer quickly, so you send email high priority and then….nuthin? Our inboxes are so full that even important emails can easily be missed. That’s where Slack comes in handy. Another free tool, it’s like AIM on steroids. You can create different “channels” for topics or projects and add the appropriate team members. Obviously, you can also direct message people for one-to-one conversations. Slack makes it really easy to share files, (it even integrates with Google drive), tag specific people in a conversation for more immediate responses, and of course, share a joke or two with your colleagues to make the day a little brighter.  We’ve definitely seen how the real-time conversations that Slack enables keep projects moving swiftly.

 

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Keeping all of our projects straight can be a challenge in a corporate world where more and more is demanded of us. There’s a phrase I heard from the DuckTales cartoon when I was a kid and it has always stuck with me, “Work smarter, not harder.” (Don’t judge, Scrooge McDuck is a beast!) We love being able to do more for our clients with less time!

 

 

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