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Five Tips For Organizing Email

Sometimes, I think the universe assigns me these blog topics on purpose.

I run two businesses, have a few personal projects, and some social correspondence which means I check about ten different email addresses from one interface.

This can get a little overwhelming.

A few weeks ago, one of my friends helped me move everything into a Google Apps account which meant that suddenly, the kind of band-aid system I had in place became apparent because EVERYTHING was getting dumped into my inbox at once.

Tip 1: Make a generic Gmail for some purposes (you can have it forward to a spot in your real email that’s not your inbox).

One thing I’ve learned is lots of people have been spoofing my domain, sending email and pretending to be affiliated with Breaking Even.

One way to stop that (and to give your email a lot more street cred in the process) is to tell your domain which services you use to send email (ex: Mailchimp) and exclude all others. (This is kind of a technical thing but if you live and die by email like we do, worth getting it set up by a pro. Let us know if you need help; we know people who do this.)

But if like me you made accounts that send auto-updates (ex: automated backups in Wordpress) with your usual email, then you are out of luck. I had to move these to a generic Gmail.

Switching things like this and online shopping accounts, etc. to a generic Gmail can filter the non-work (i.e. non-productive) stuff to another area before it even hits your work email.

Tip 2: Use Unroll.me or similar service to batch your marketing emails.

Unroll.me is a free service that connects to your email and pulls in any marketing emails. From the interface, you can select which ones go to your inbox, which ones get ‘bundled’ for a once a day delivery/processing, and which ones you want to unsubscribe from.

With over 1800 email subscriptions (many of which I swear I didn’t even sign up for), this has been a huge timesaver for me. And if you run a local business or non-profit, you can tell people about this and make sure your emails get in your customers’ inboxes (if they want them to anyway).

Tip 3: Use filters.

The easiest way to organize something is to organize how (and if) it comes into your life. With filters, I can have things from certain clients go into certain areas of my email, meaning I can batch tasks. Much more efficient than dealing with a mass pile of email looking for one particular thing.

Filters may seem like a technical thing to set up but most of the work is just deciding how you want to get information. Here’s how to create filters in Gmail and other popular services.

Tip 4: Templates are your friend.

If you’re like us, there are certain kinds of emails you get all the time:

  • I want to be a member but I’m not sure. (for Anchorspace)
  • What are your rates?
  • I don’t know anything about X service. What do you do?

I have a Google Doc called ‘Email Templates So I Don’t Have To Rewrite Them All the Effin Time’. I never remember exactly what it’s called but I can always find it via the word ‘effin’ in search. (Whatever works for you.) Taking the time to thoughtfully write these once and use them over and over will save valuable brain time. Part of my template says ‘INSERT PLEASANTRY HERE’ which allows me to add a personal touch before clicking send.

Tip 5: Find your most soul sucking email task and see if you can automate it.

Is it sticking reservations into a Google Calendar? Scheduling meetings? Sending out weekly Google Analytics reports to the team? All these things can be made automatic.

For me, my email used to be a place of some excitement… and as it turned to more dread, I realized why. It was because I was spending an average of 7 emails to schedule a one hour meeting.

Then I got Evie and she schedules things for me, and it’s lovely. Point is, since I got rid of the thing I dreaded most in my email, it has become a lot funner of a place once again.

The thing you hate the most about your email may be something you can have automatically happen. Give it a shot.

Email is here to say; it’s part of all our lives and by helping get it under control, we can feel more organized about a lot of our digital lives.

More Resources:

5 Tips To Achieve Inbox Zero

Send emails later (or reminders) in Gmail with Boomerang

27 Prewritten Templates For Your Toughest Work Emails

Email Game (because we all need a little incentive)

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

BEC Story #3: Space To Grow

One thing I love/hate about running a business is when problems you thought you solved reappear (or sometimes more accurately, decisions you thought you had already made and were done with). For example, once upon a time had an office… until we needed another office.

Problem: After four years in business, Breaking Even got an office. And when we were two people and our income was at the level it was, that office was very functional. When we (the business) needed to increase to three and four people, I hired a part time, two hour away friend (telecommuting) and worked with a subcontractor (also who would work remotely). Then one day, I thought how helpful it would be to get us all in the same room for a day. So I started calling around.

I wanted someplace private (a lot of the local banks have conference spaces but they don’t feel like you can really close the door and be undisturbed… unless you were having a meeting with a bank employee of course). I wanted someplace nice. I wanted someplace with good internet. I didn’t need to pay hundreds for a banquet hall for a weekend wedding; I wanted six hours of peace and quiet in a nice room with a table, some chairs, and the internet.

As I tried to make a list of amenities writing this, I realize more of what I wanted was for my coworkers to feel a certain way. I wanted them to feel taken care of. Relaxed. Inspired. Happy. Productive. Engaged. Warm.

I ended up renting a hotel ballroom. When I walked in, I smiled. In this relatively large room with a crystal chandellier was a small table (big enough for four people) with four water glasses in the geographic center of the room. And nothing else. I chuckled because it looked cute and a little absurd. And I wondered how many other people needed what I needed at least sometimes. If we were going to work well together, we needed a room we could all fit in.

I had done a pretty exhaustive search of office spaces in the area.  I’ve seen about 20 total offices in my community and much of what I looked at years ago is still on the market now.

Why? Remember the feelings I wanted my coworkers to have at the retreat?  These spaces exuded none of that. And if we were going to make a change, I like changes to be ‘onward and upward’, not ‘lateral and with the same issues.’ Plus, a new office space was not going to be able to fulfill our meeting needs anyway, even if we could get past weird smells, a lack of natural light, or lack of parking options for our clients.

Solution:

Honestly, a bigger office would have been a lot less work than opening up a whole new business. But in these stories, you may know hard work is one of the qualities I value and try to cultivate.

The idea of a coworking space has been rolling around in my head for almost four years. Since I heard of the concept, I loved the idea. It makes a lot of sense for an entrepreneurial community like the one I live in to have something like this, not just for Breaking Even Communications but small businesses operating out of homes, coffee shops, and libraries as well as bigger firms who did work in the area but didn’t have office space nearby (contractors, engineers, etc.)

Opening Anchorspace was part selfish-we needed more space. But I truly believed that the solution to our problem could simultaneously be beneficial to the community, so why not help others while we were at it?

So I wrote a business plan, did cost projects, worked with a career counselor, worked with an intern on market research, secured a space, painted the space, furnished it, had security cameras installed and a few other upgrades, and opened Anchorspace in less than a year. My coworkers in the meantime picked up my slack at Breaking Even so I had not only the time but the brain space to deal with this very big idea.

Values demonstrated: Open to ideas of others, community minded, hard work, teamwork, resourcefulness, going with my gut (intuition maybe?)

How could this story be improved?

If you’re emotionally attached to something, have someone else write it. Problem is, when you are very emotionally into something, it’s hard to step back and make it interesting. Like in this story, I didn’t tell you we opened and had no customers for three months. Or any of the other small and big struggles that would have made it more interesting and relatable. I’ll admit this, I’m a writer and I paid my friend to write my bio on this website. What comes across is something much more balanced and less weird than it would be if I wrote it. This is why most magazines have journalists interview authors. Authors could write their own story… but it’s just not as good somehow, especially for that emotional stuff.

Take credit. I think as a woman in particular, I tend to not take as much credit for my accomplishments as I should. I remember in college doing well in something and hearing myself say, out loud, that what I did was nothing, not important, anyone could have done it, blah, blah, blah. Actually, I had worked hard. I had earned that grade. I told myself that from now on, when someone gave me a compliment, I would simply say, “Thank you.” I would take the credit for the work. In saying, yes, I made Anchorspace happen, I am not taking away anything from people who helped. I am just taking ownership of what I did. I saw a problem we had, zoomed out and saw we could help others, and took a harder road than a lot of people would have taken to get there. So yes, I’m going to take some credit for that.

Epilogue: I’m really struggling to write these stories. In other words, if you’ve taken our story challenge and our struggling, please know I am too!

Previous Stories:
BEC Story #2
BEC Story #1
Original post about why we’re doing these stories.

Nicole runs Breaking Even Communications, an internet marketing company in Bar Harbor Maine. When she’s not online, she enjoys walking her short dog, cooking with bacon, and trying to be outdoorsy in Acadia National Park.

Snapchat for Businesses 2.0: An Update

One of my first blog posts at Breaking Even was written almost 2 years ago and dedicated to one of my favorite apps of all time, Snapchat. Although my excitement towards app has arguably waned, it’s made some significant changes in this time period, and people have had time to find ways to use it as a marketing tool. I mean, even The White House is on Snapchat now. As we’ve discovered with Constant Contact vs. Mailchimp, nothing is permanent when it comes to apps, marketing, and social media (basically, the internet). The almost two year mark seems like a good time for a Snapchat for Business update:

1. Discover. Since we last talked about Snapchat for businesses, Discover is probably one of the biggest changes. Comedy Central, CNN, Wall Street Journal, Buzzfeed, People, and National Geographic are a slice of the brands you’ll find in Discover. One of the theories behind Discover is that it’ll encourage younger generations interested in the news and current events by delivering it to them in this medium. For example, if you’re looking at WSJ’s story, if you swipe up, you can read the full article associated with the snap.

What the "Read the Whole Story" process looks like.

What the “Read the Whole Story” process looks like.

2. Tell a story. When I first wrote the Snapchat article, stories either weren’t an option or I hadn’t figured them out yet (sorry guys). Most businesses use stories as a way to share content with anyone who adds them on Snapchat. These can be a series of stills or videos that anyone who follows you can view. For instance, I follow the Whole30. Since they are a brand built around a specific diet/lifestyle, they share content that’s related to food, cooking, and motivation. The most recent story was a video message from founder Melissa to those who started a January 1st Whole30 to “hang in there” (anyone who’s done the Whole30 knows the first week is often the most difficult to get through). Using stories in this way allows you to connect with your followers in a unique way, and with this example, I’m sure the January Whole30-ers appreciated the boost.

3. Build your following. Whether you’re a business or individual, Snapchat now lets you generate your own personal snapcode (basically the same thing as a QR code). Some people use their logo in the little ghost silhouette (individuals often use their face).

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Unless you have an individual in your contact list, adding someone on Snapchat can be difficult. Without this or a snapcode, you have to know someone’s exact username in order to add them. If you misspell or have any sort of typo, you end up following the wrong person. It ends up being confusing and/or embarrassing. A lot of businesses have not only created Snapcodes, they share them on their Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, so people can easily find and follow them.

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I found the Whole30 Snapchat account after they shared their snapcode on Instagram.

4. Delegate. This article from Forbes brings up something businesses might find useful: relinquishing power of the business Snapchat over to employees. The pros: employees are at the “front lines” and can deliver real time content with greater ease than their managers (in theory). Cons: since it’s “real time,” you’re investing a lot of trust in other people. Giving this access to employees might mean a brief training on what to share/what not to share, but if done correctly can result in some popular snaps (think “behind the scenes” and product launch material).

5.  “Take risks, try new things, and put a human feel on it” – Christina Coy, marketing manager of Pie Five. It’s unlikely that your Snapchat content is going to be used in other marketing channels (unlike Facebook or Instagram, where you can use images and videos across channels and in future marketing efforts). So, if you’re going to use Snapchat, you might as well have fun trying out some new marketing tools. It’s a low risk way to see how people respond to new marketing ideas, for instance, 16 Handles noticed that consumers responded more to their snaps featuring cartoon characters eating their products, as opposed to messages about the benefits of froyo. In other words, it’s simplified A/B testing.

An example of marketing from Kit Kat (I didn't know there were different flavors until seeing this...)

An example of marketing from Kit Kat (I didn’t know there were different flavors until seeing this…)

6. For businesses interested in metrics, Snapchat doesn’t have the metrics one might find desirable. It’s based on private interactions, so you can’t forward or share someone else’s snap (that would entirely defeat the purpose). Discovery messages can be saved or sent to friends, but as mentioned before, these are big brands that bought into this. If you’re into marketing with more concrete metrics (i.e. not just how many people opened a snap story), this probably isn’t the best medium for you to experiment with.

In 2015, businesses have poured into the Snapchat marketing world. It’s still a unique way to foster relationships with consumers, although it lacks the ability to be far reaching (i.e. no ability to share or “re-snap”) and provide concrete metrics. Unlike Ello, this former-fringe network is earning it’s place among the larger social media networks, and I’ll probably have to write another update in two-ish years.

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

The Yule Blog

Merry Christmas from Breaking Even Communications! We hope you enjoy this “Yule Blog,” maybe even more than an actual Yule log. “Yule Blog” combines holiday cheer and the internet in a festive mashup-and you won’t have the sugar crash afterwards.  In 2015, I noticed a lot of holiday joy being spread online. Here are a few of my favorite things from this year:

  “It came without ribbons, it came without tags, it came without packages, boxes and bags!”- The Grinch, probably talking about finding holiday joy online.

Besides the obvious fact that you can do most of your shopping online (even from local people), another perk is getting ideas for what to buy everyone on your list. Some people use Amazon’s Wish List as an easy way to exchange Christmas lists. Others simply share the URLs for what it is they want (I did this for a pair of running shoes last year but it turned into a flow chart based on color availability, so it didn’t simplify the process). The internet certainly has been a game-changer for the structure of a Christmas list:

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Kids are probably my favorite part of the holiday season. Generally speaking, they still have that awe and wide-eyed wonder that reminds us to stop and appreciate the little things. More often than not, they remind us what the true spirit of the holiday is all about. This video from UP T.V.  shows what happens when a child is asked to choose a gift for himself or his family- every time, the child chooses a gift for his family. One kid explained “LEGOs don’t matter, your family matters.” It’s a truly heartwarming video.

theothergift

A little goodwill can go a long way. It’s amazing to see people rising to calls for help during the holiday season, which are easier to share with the help of social media. The example below is just one of many that I’ve seen go by in the past month (and the Bangor Police Department is notorious for their acts of goodwill and epic social media presence). There’s also the story of an 8 year old girl who lost her family in a fire two years ago, who only asked for Christmas cards this year. Thanks to social media, she received over 300,000 letters and about 3,000 packages (including a teddy bear from a boy in Hong Kong).

BPDnicelady

On the lighter side of holidays and the internet, Elf on the Shelf has returned again this year to our Facebook newsfeeds. Although I have mixed feelings about the whole tradition, I will say that Busy Philipps nails it. Check out her Instagram for more amazing elf ideas- no idea how she comes up with these elaborate scenes:

busyelf

Then, there’s this Craiglist ad for a Human Elf on the Shelf, offering to sit around your holiday party and “stare emptily at your guests.” The man behind the ad recently came forward and admitted it was just a prank, which he’d forgotten about until people started requesting his services. Who knew there was a market for this stuff?

humanelf

Another holiday tradition that I have a lukewarm attitude about are Christmas cards. These can be a joy or a pain, depending on how you approach them. This family has taken them to the next level, dedicating 13 years of Christmas cards to be intentionally awkward. If you’re going to commit to a tradition, it might as well be one you can all enjoy, after all!

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And of course, what’s a holiday without a good Pinterest fail? My Christmas cookies are notoriously terrible (fortunately I don’t share with anyone), and that’s without trying to follow anything I’ve pinned. In fact, we make them terrible on purpose because it makes us laugh. I’m always impressed with the things my real adult friends concoct via Pinterest!

Franken-Cookies- and this is before decorating.

Franken-Cookies- and this is before decorating.

 

Hope you all have a Merry Christmas!

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.

Tech Thursday: Insta-bleh to Insta-BLAM!

Photography isn’t your forte? Don’t worry, there’s an app for that!

In this video, we offer some tricks on how to creating an awesome Instagram account that don’t rely on photography skills.

And, for those who are interested in the collage option, here are a couple links:

1) A step-by-step guide on collage making, and

2) A review of some of the apps you can use to create a collage on your phone.

 

Kassie is a distance runner and a distance reader really. She lives in Ellsworth Maine and, while she might be quiet when you meet her, will throw out something witty when you least expect it.