I opened my Gmail account this morning to see a new Label called “Buzz” just under my Inbox label. Hmmm. I clicked it and read the “Welcome” letter, spent a few more minutes looking into it at the Google Buzz site, Read the Google Blog about Buzz, watched a video about it (see bottom of this post), then I immediately removed it from my email interface by performing the following task:
Click: Settings -> Labels -> Hide (next to the Buzz Label). Now the “Buzz” label is not visible from my Gmail interface.
Sorry Google. My Gmail interface is a productivity tool. I have a lot of stuff to get done. I pay you an annual fee for the extra storage space I need. I don’t want a bunch of new crap inserted into my inbox which will no doubt slow me down, distract my thinking and reduce my productivity.
It is with great diligence that I put the Labels and Filtering options in Gmail to use in order to keep stuff out of my face that I don’t want or need to see immediately, or at all. I don’t need a new Google Buzz Box providing an endless stream of the social goings on and digital mussing of the people in my Gmail contact database, which is currently at 2700+ and growing daily. If I want to know what people are doing, and I have time to waste, I have other ways of accomplishing that, such as visiting Facebook or surfing blogs.
The advertised features of Google Buzz are:
No setup needed – Automatically follow the people you email and chat with the most in Gmail.
SC: Yeah, I noticed that, and turned it off immediately. No thanks.
Share publicly or privately – Publish your ideas to the world or just to your closest friends.
SC: I’m trying to catch up on email, not share my ideas with the world.
Inbox integration – Comments get sent right to your inbox so it’s easy to keep the conversation going.
SC: No! Leave my inbox alone. I work hard keeping it at “zero”.
See updates in real time – New posts and comments pop in as they happen. No refresh required.
SC: Oh Dear God No! Don’t you get it? I’m trying to work and get stuff done. Leave me alone.
Just the good stuff – Buzz recommends interesting posts and weeds out ones you’re likely to skip.
SC: No. Don’t recommend anything to me. Stop bothering me. Go away, I’m working.
Maybe this is a knee-jerk reaction and I’ll gradually become aware of ways that Google Buzz can be utilized while remaining segregated from the focus and attention I need to maintain when in my “Email Office”. I just don’t feel like I need more social networking stuff foisted upon me at this point in life. Enough already.
Email Efficiency – Not Letting Email Run Your Life
At present, I have a systematic and specific way that I deal with email. My routine is a result of reading about how others deal with high-volume email and adopting those various ideas and concepts. If you recognize some of these ideas, you’ll know they are not my inventions. I borrowed them all. If you constantly feel overwhelmed by email, and are guilty of letting things slip through the cracks because they fall off your radar, the following routine is what helps me stay on top of (or quickly dispense with) the 200-300 emails that come at me each day. Here’s what I do.
First, let’s start with the list of things that need to happen with an email you receive. The list is rather small actually, which should give comfort. There are only 5 things that can result from an email I receive:
1) Delete/Archive – this is the most common. These don’t even get read.
2) Reply Immediately – stuff like “got it”, or “thanks, see you then”, etc.
3) Reply later – will take longer than 1 minute, or requires research or some thinking first.
4) Forward – send to someone else to handle.
5) Create a To Do, or Task – Something needs to get done, like call a plumber, an appraiser, set an appointment, find something and send, etc.
That’s it. I defy you to send an email to me that won’t be handled in one of the above 5 ways. You can’t do it. There is nothing else I can do with an email outside that universe of 5 things. Knowing this helps construct the email management framework that Gmail so brilliantly enables and facilitates.
Use Labels: I have many different “Labels” (or Folders in Outlook terminology) into which I either manually move emails or, better yet, into which they are filtered automatically. The main productivity labels I use are “Reply”, “To Do”, Followup”, “Print” and “Call”. The benefit of Labels over Folders is that an email can have multiple labels assigned to it. For example, if I receive an attachment I need to sign and return, that would get tagged as “Print” and “To Do”.
So, if I haven’t deleted or responded immediately, or forwarded an email (usually to Sylvia to handle), it will instead be immediately moved out of my inbox and into one or more of the “Reply”, “To Do”, “Call”, or “Print” boxes. Each day, more than once a day, I clean out my inbox and take it, literally, to zero emails. This is version of Merlin Mann’s “Inbox Zero” concept, which borrows a lot from David Allens GTD – “Getting Things Done” concepts.
Next, I “process to zero”, when possible, the Label folders. That means I click on my Reply Label and start plucking those responses off one by one until I have none left. They get “unlabeled” as I go. Next I go through my “Call” label and make those phone calls. Same with the Print, To Do, and Task lists.
The Followup label can hold both received and sent emails. These are generally things awaiting response or outcome that I don’t want to forget about. For example, if I ask my roofer to go provide a bid on a house, I email him the info and then label the email as “Followup” so I won’t forget to check back with him in case I don’t hear back in a day or two. Once I do, I remove the Followup label.
Make sense? And yes, the labels get filled and clogged and I’m not always able to clear my Reply box in one sitting or get my To Do tasks done. Often it’s email triage, dealing with the more important or time sensitive matters first. It’s only during the slowest times that I can accomplish Zero status on all labels, but this system ensures that nothing is forgotten.
Use Filters – Gmail has powerful filtering capabilities that allow certain emails to be filtered automatically and moved to a Label without ever appearing in the Inbox. This is an amazing productivity tool and method of keeping non-urgent emails away from your eyeballs.
For example, I have a Label called “Facebook” and I have a Gmail filter that sends all emails from Facebook directly into the Facebook Label, thus skipping the inbox and not cluttering my productivity with Facebook junk. I never see these facebook emails until I make the decision to scan through them en masse. When I so choose, I will click the Facebook Label and go into “facebook mode” for 10 or 15 minutes, and dispense with the Facebook related stuff inside a specific time frame and within a specific mindset. Usually late at night during “off” hours, though not always. Then it’s back to work.
I have dozens of such filters. One catches all the Realtor newsletters and info that will never be urgent or require my immediate attention, but through which I like to scan and read every day or two so I can stay up to date on what’s going on in my industry. But I don’t need nor do I allow that news to interrupt my day by appearing in my inbox at random times.
Hopefully this helps explain my knee jerk reaction to Google Buzz showing up unannounced, without invitation, to my Inbox Party. I ask just two questions when I see something like Google Buzz:
1) Will it make more more productive and efficient, or will it waste my time?
2) Will it generate more leads? That is, will it help me connect and/or stay connected in a meaningful, non-intrusive way with past and future clients who I’d like to do future business with?
The answer to #1 is clear. It’s a new way to waste time.
The answer to #2 is “I don’t know yet”.
I’ll set aside time and look into it further down the road. For now, other, more geeky people can be the “early adopters” , make assessments and write about it. But Google Buzz seems to me at first glance just one more thing to nourish and foster what has become an ADHD society ever more immersed in digital media and ever more addicted to useless, instant tidbit information from people we don’t know, or barely know, or don’t care about, regarding stuff that doesn’t matter.
Below is a YouTube Video explaining what you can do with Google Buzz.