Taking Care of Business: Part 2 – Getting Things Done with Gmail or Inbox

Either Google’s GMail or their newer Inbox are good candidates to live at the core of your trusted system.  Though the two applications store their data in the same place, their behaviors differ enough to merit looking at them separately. Let’s start with the elder of the products — Gmail.

gmail-logo-iconWhen loading up GMail, it is easy to see how you might implement the workflow described in Part 1 of this series. You can even use filters and labels to highlight those reminder messages that I mentioned. There are many articles around the web that can help you create useful filters or even become a GMail Master.

There is a Task List built into GMail. Add to that the integrated Contact List (not to mention Google Calendar) and things start to make sense — send/receive mail, create/complete tasks, and organize/categorize contacts, schedule/track appointments… Yes, you can begin to see how this system might work.

But, what if you want a little more? What if you would like GMail to be just a bit more CRM-like? That’s simple. Install Streak.

Streak-default-window-450x279Streak adds CRM features to GMail and the single user version of the product is completely free. Instead of Sales Funnels, Streak calls them Pipelines. Start with a default Pipeline and customize it for the way you work.

Streak doesn’t take over your whole GMail experience. Instead, it waits until you choose to manage an email by adding it to a Box at the beginning of a Pipeline. While you are communicating with a potential client if they start a new thread or use a different email address, you can add those to the box as well, giving you a central place to manage all of the pertinent communication.

As an interaction progresses, you move the Box from Lead, to Contacted, to Pitched and eventually to Won or Lost, depending upon the outcome of your negotiation. The stages can all be customized. Adapt them to the way that you work.

With Tasks and notes inside each box, there is really no excuse to not have all of that data ready when you need it.

Beyond the Pipeline, Streak offers:

  • Scheduling Emails
  • Snoozing Emails
  • Tracking if your email has been read
  • Templates for commonly written emails

I’m probably leaving some things out. They are adding new features all of the time. If you’ve ever considered a CRM, Streak is a great way to test drive one from the comfort of GMail.

fullcontactA second plugin to consider adding is called FullContact. And, as the name suggests, it’s focused on enhancing your Contact Management experience. FullContact helps match data in your Contact List with your connections on social media bringing as much data as it can find to you. Empowering you to make better decisions when you reach out to a potential client.

FullContact has two parts, an app (web, iOS, Android, Mac) and a browser plugin. The app is an enhanced address book that is surprisingly good at finding and merging duplicates and tagging your data. The browser plugin replaces the ads in GMail with a quick overview of what FullContact knows about the person with whom you are communicating.

FullContact is free and it’s paid features are an interesting add-on including the ability for the program to add data it finds in email signatures and taking pictures of business cards with your phone and having real people add that to your database as well.

With these two plugins, GMail becomes a powerhouse. But, what if you find that a bit intimidating? What if you’ve tried Google’s new Inbox and you like what you see there? Can you do any of this with Inbox?

google-inboxInbox is Google’s attempt to adapt email to a task-based paradigm. Hardcore GMail users have a hard time adapting to the change but those who do seem to really enjoy Inbox.

Inbox encourages its users to embrace both the Getting Things Done, and the Zero Inbox paradigms.

Emails are stacked and grouped like papers in a physical inbox. When you sit down to triage your inbox, you’re expected to do one of the following things:

  • Reply to simple requests, then mark them as Done
  • Snooze tasks that you can’t complete now until a more appropriate time
  • Pin really important things that need to stay visible

If you read Part 1 of this series, the workflow above might look familiar. Inbox eliminates the need to email yourself. New Reminders can be scheduled and Snoozed right along side email messages. Reminders can also be created within Google Calendar and Google Keep (a note taking program). Google Now can also show and manage Reminders on your mobile phone.

If you don’t feel that you need Streak’s Pipeline feature, putting Inbox, Calendar, and Keep together, start to feel like fun way to go. But, what about FullContact? The app still functions as expected, but the browser plugin does not work in Inbox — yet. The FullContact team says this feature is currently in beta testing. So, if you don’t need that feature right now. Try Inbox., you might like it.

Future parts of this series will move beyond software and look at other aspects of running your own business. If there are any topics that you would like me to cover, let me know.

What web apps and plugins  make up your trusted system? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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