Striking out on your own is hard. In addition to delivering product, you also have to provide sales, marketing, accounting, legal and custodial services — to yourself. Worse, you have to be your own IT department.
The right apps will ease some of that frustration, so I’m putting together a list of my favorite productivity tools for small businesses, all of which integrate with Google Apps. First up, I’m taking on email. You need to manage that Gordian Knot of messages you call an inbox.
Boomerang for Gmail is a Firefox and Google Chrome plugin that lets you take control of when you send and receive email messages. It’s free for up to 10 messages a month, and a subscription running $5 to 15 a month depending on whether you’re a Google Apps user.
Managing email is a hassle no matter how you look at it. you keep up with time-sensitive emails without clogging your inbox. Here’s how it works: Boomerang integrates directly into Gmail. It’ll let you temporarily file email messages away for a specified amount of time. The value is, when you need a reminder of an email on a particular date, Boomerang will put it back in your inbox as a new item.
In the meantime, it’s out of sight and not cluttering your email workspace.
With Boomerang, you can schedule outbound emails for a particular time. In addition to the obvious uses here (that is, composing a day’s worth of emails and scheduling them to be sent out while you’re playing hooky with the new Call of Duty), this is quite useful for timely reminders. Instead of reminding your sub-contractor to put that splash page up at 9:00 am tomorrow, have Boomerang send that reminder to them at 8:45 am tomorrow.
Notifications from others
Did you receive an email from a vendor or client that they would have some information to you by tomorrow? Use Boomerang to remind you by setting the email to reappear tomorrow afternoon. Did you pre-order an item for store pickup or get a delivery confirmation? Set Boomerang to remind you about it on the day of.
Art Credit: Wikimedia Commons Image, Alexander Cuts the Gordian Knot by by Jean-Simon Berthélemy (1743–1811)
Wait for response
Without a doubt, the best feature of Boomerang is being able send an email to someone, then have it return to your inbox later if no one responded. This keeps you from having to review your sent items to see what emails you are waiting on, or keeping a separate to-do list of “waiting for replies”. Simply choose to “Boomerang this” from your compose window in Gmail, then set the amount of time you’re willing to wait.
No question, $15/month for Google Apps users sounds steep. It would also be nice to have an option to automatically resend the original email on the specified date/time if no one replied. These are pretty minor complaints. in no way stopped me from using Boomerang regularly for many months now.
Boomerang is not a project management system (nor is it designed to be), so don’t expect it to use it to keep track of your to-do list and milestones. However, if you want to be able to take email that are not relevant to you at the moment out of your inbox and have them return when they are, then Boomerang is a must-have additional to your productivity toolset.
Are you an entrepreneur or small business owner? What productivity tools do you use and recommend? Let us know your favorite Google Apps tools for success in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or on Google+!
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