Back Office Secrets
with Jenny Shih

Back Office Secrets: One Tool to Take Control of Your Inbox (and Your Sanity)

It’s every entrepreneur’s worst nightmare.

There you are, chugging along with your daily routine – talking to clients, making phone calls, wrapping up paperwork – when suddenly, an email appears in your inbox. And it is not happy to be there.

email

It’s a follow-up from a prospective client who was ready to hire you. She was the perfect client, and you were excited to work with her. Except you you forgot to follow up last week like you promised, and now she’s telling you she’s not sure she’s going to hire you.

It’s all you can do not to smack yourself on the forehead. How could you forget? You clearly remember saying you’d reply, but it seemed to slip your mind so easily.

Why did this happen? Well, the easy answer is: because we’re entrepreneurs – and the only thing more ridiculous than the hours we sometimes keep is the state of our inbox on a daily basis.

Here’s what I think is really going on: when you use your inbox as a to-do manager and when email is simply an item on your to-do list, emails get jumbled up with the hundred other things on our plate.

to-do list

Instead, each email should be considered a to-do item, and your inbox should never be used as a to-do list. These two bad habits are a big part of why emails fall through the cracks. The problem, of course, is that a whole lot more (like clients, business, and money) falls through the cracks with it.

Many smart entrepreneurs try methods for inbox management like inbox zero, which I personally love. However, I find that adding one additional tool to my inbox arsenal takes email management to a more streamlined, efficient, crack-free, business-boosting level – more than inbox zero can do on its own.

This nifty tool is designed to specifically manage my emails, help me remember to reply when I promise, follow up with others who may have forgotten a due date, and keep my inbox under control.

Enter: Boomerang

Boomerang is a Gmail add-on. It pops a “Boomerang” button right into your emails, letting you schedule messages ahead of time, create follow-up reminders, or have certain emails circle back around to the top of your inbox at a predesignated time.

boomerang

Using a tool completely dedicated to email, rather than a more traditional to-do list (like Things for Mac, my personal favorite, for example) works beautifully to streamline your business – because it’s specifically designed to work alongside your inbox and your schedule.

Boomerang has transformed my relationship with my inbox and keeps me on top of everything. Emails (and prospects) no longer fall through the cracks.

How Boomerang Helps Me Stay on Top of Emails

1. It helps me keep track of my outside commitments.

I do quite a bit of outside writing work for other blogs – LKR is one of them! So when the content manager at LKR sends over my posting schedule for the next six months, I Boomerang the message to return to my inbox 2 weeks before the next deadline. This helps me remember the due date during even the craziest weeks, as well as what I’m expected to dive in.

2. It streamlines my sales and client processes.

Boomerang helps me effortlessly take care of and track where things stand with potential clients.

First, my assistant uses Boomerang to manage prospect consult scheduling. When she emails the potential client about scheduling a consult, she Boomerang’s the message to return to her inbox in 5 days as a reminder to herself to make sure that person’s scheduled their appointment.

Second, I use it for follow-up emails with new clients. When someone says YES to working with me over the phone, but still needs to pay, I send the payment link then Boomerang the message to return to the top of my inbox in 3 days. This reminds me to make sure they’ve made their payment, so I can easily stay on top of each client’s payment status.

3. It helps me stay on top of my team’s tasks.

When I’m working with my team on a project, I Boomerang project-related emails to return to me the day of any given deadline to make sure everything’s on track. This makes it easier to keep on top of what’s going on with each person every step of the way.

boomerangthismessage

Want to check out Boomerang? You can do that HERE. (referral link).

Not using Gmail? I’ve heard good things about FollowUp.cc, which offers similar email management tools for other email applications.

What Indispensable Email Tools Do You Love? Tell us…

What tools have revolutionized the way YOU work? How’s your inbox looking these days… and what are your plans to improve it?

Join the conversation in the comments below.

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About Jenny Shih

Jenny Shih of jennyshih.com is a coach and consultant for small business owners. Her clients are “idea factories” with growing businesses who need help planning, strategizing, streamlining and systematizing. She helps new entrepreneurs define their niche, learn the basics of marketing, and start making money. And she helps experienced entrepreneurs set up systems so they can get out of the daily grind and spend more time doing what they love.

Jenny is the author of The System Flight Kit, everything you need to create effective systems in your business, and The Idea Flight Kit, a step-by-step guide for turning your ideas into something real. Download your copies right here. They’re FREE!

Comments

  1. Thanks for the tips. I am using Boomerang myself, but for canned messages and scheduled outgoing emails. I haven’t tried to “boomerang” read emails back into the inbox yet.

  2. Andrew Richard says:

    I love the whole Google Apps for Business ecosystem! We have tested a lot of the apps in the marketplace including boomerang, it was impressive in its execution however on the whole we didn’t see wide spread adoption. The app that is killing it for us is Mavenlink! It’s a complete project management tool that connects to both QuickBooks, and Google Apps. A deadly combination if you’re a user of both. They just launched a resource management component as well as Gantt Charts. I was also recently shown their chrome extension and I’m basically in love. I know this is a little off topic for reminders however it does connect to both your Google calendar and tasks so everything can be captured in one place. Time sheets and quotes and more and more and more! We are using this for a user base of roughly 27 and will be expanding to 36 by the end of the year. It suits our engineering and operations group perfectly. Don’t even get me started on the mobile side of it….. Great points and ideas for boomerang! I’ll investigate it again.

  3. Thanks for the tip Jenny – Boomerang looks awesome! I could certainly make use of this tool!

  4. Heard a lot about Boomerang and will have to check it out.
    Btw I love rapportive app in the gmail. (not sure if you have heard about it or not)

  5. Jenny, I’ve been looking for tools to stay on top of my inbox for some time now. Thanks for all these great ideas! I’ve recently started using Gmail and while it offers more than Yahoo! it seems that it’s that much more layered and complex. I can’t wait till I can use all that it offers.