Communication is everything – and Google forgot!

Last month Google revamped Gmail so that incoming mail was diverted from the inbox to different folders before mailbox owners got to see their new email messages.

There was an outcry! Why? Surely this change is a good one if it sorts your emails before they get to you? Yes – most definitely.

But Google just did it without any warning.  One day all the email went into the inbox; the next day it went into different folders – and that was the day Google told its Gmail users about the change.

Now your inbox only contains emails that have been sent directly to you. Messages sent to long list of people with your email address in there somewhere now go to one of three folders:

Social – for messages via LinkedIn, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter etc

Promotions – from companies wanting to sell you something

Forums – for messages from groups you belong to such as professional organisations

With these messages safely tucked into their own folders, your inbox is no longer cluttered with message you don’t need to look at frequently.  You can check these messages when you have a spare moment rather than interrupting your day.

Initially some emails may be misfiled so it will pay to check these categorised emails and move them to an appropriate folder.  But once you’ve done that Gmail will remember and not misfile again.

Google has more information for you here  or you can watch the video here

So if this new way of organising emails is so helpful, why did people get so upset with Google? What did Google do wrong?

Google surprised people.  That’s what!

All Google needed to do was give its Gmail users some warning about its plans – and explain the benefits.

So many organisations forget to tell its people about upcoming changes.  Then the bosses wonder why staff are upset and productivity plunges – even if only temporarily – and it is so avoidable.

In my eWorkbook I explain that if you are going to change your  filing system, you need to communicate your plans to everyone concerned from the beginning of the process. That way there will be no surprises and your productivity will improve when the new system is installed.

If you don’t use Gmail and want some help managing your email, go to my earlier blogs De-mystify your email inbox and Good habits around email.

We can help you to set up folders in other email packages so you can focus on the important emails in your inbox.

You can read about more hints and tips to improve your business in my free eBook; and even more if you download the eWorkbook that gives you a full set of instructions on how to set up a filing system for your business.

Judy Owen has been working with businesses of all sizes and complexities for more than 20 years to improve and streamline the access to their business information.  She and her team can show you how to reduce risk, improve productivity and increase profits with good business systems and processes in your business.



Ease your frustration with organised business information

The most common gripe I hear is the frustration of not being able to find a document; it might be an electronic document, a piece of paper on a desk or in a folder or an email.

This is not surprising when I look at how a lot of people store their business information.

It might seem to be safe to keep all your emails and never delete them “in case they are needed one day” or keep all your paper work in piles on your desk (or on the floor when you run out of desk space) so “its handy” or leave all your electronic files in “My Documents” or on your desktop screen because you think you can find them quickly by doing a Google-type search.

The reality is however that none of these storage methods work effectively, especially when you need something in a hurry.

We all have some form of structure in our lives. Some people lead more structured lives than others with set times for each activity, others are less timebound but still have some structure in their day.  Each day we eat, sleep, go to work, go home – usually with a timeframe around these activities.

There is structure at work too – hours and days of work, who does what, when and how much you get paid or how much time you can take to have a holiday.

Not everyone realises though that they need structure for their business information too. Even the most organised people can find themselves struggling to find that elusive document when they need to rush off to a meeting with a client or customer, or can’t find an email they need to action.

It’s not really difficult to establish some structure into your email  or your electronic or paper documents into folders.

I generally set up a directory structure for electronic documents to help clients organise their business information.  This structure is mirrored in email folders and also for a paper filing system if they have one. This makes it easy for them to find what they want regardless of its format.

Remember your in box is not a filing cabinet!   

Once you have the structure in place you then need to develop good habits around using the structure – all the time!.

You’ll be amazed at how much more you can achieve in a day if you don’t have to spend unproductive time looking for information.

You can read about more hints and tips to improve productivity in your business in my free eBook; and even more if you download the eWorkbook that give you a full set of instructions on how to set up a filing system for your business.




Your email inbox is not a filing cabinet

What does your email inbox look like?

Does it hold just a the latest incoming messages? Or do you use it as a storage place for hundreds or thousands of email messages?

If the latter, how do you ever find the message you want? And how long does it take you?  In fact which of these messages will you ever want again?

Read more

Make your business more efficient

We have helped many small businesses, so we know we can provide you with expert advice on filing systems and processes for keeping business records.

Now you too can benefit from our experience because we can offer you the opportunity to download our new e-book “Keeping Good Records for Small Businesses” that gives you clear step-by-step instructions on how to create a filing system to organize your business information in a package that includes:

  • Instructions on how to set up a filing system (an excerpt  from the e-book is attached)
  • A template to use to create a filing policy and a set of filing procedures tailored for your business
  • One hour consulting advice to get you started (by phone, Skype or in person).

You get all that in our package – usually for $297, but even better, you have the advantage of a special price of $147 for a limited time.

If your business has a filing mess you can follow the instructions yourself to sort it out. You can work at your own pace, to design and develop a system that is aligned to your particular business needs knowing that at the end you will have a system that works perfectly for your business.

For more information and how to buy your own reference guide to small business filing systems, go to

Terrace Consulting – 10 years old

Its ten years now since I took the plunge and left the safe world of a regular salary payment to set up Terrace Consulting.

Terrace Consulting has taken me on an amazing journey.  I’ve met some wonderful people, some of whom I can now count as friends; I’ve had some exciting assignments; and most of all I feel I’ve made a positive difference to the way the organisations I’ve worked with have managed, accessed and stored their information.

It hasn’t always been an easy road for the people I’ve worked with as inevitably they have had to change the way they work.   The changes have come about largely by the changing way people who need information want to access it.  That has been heavily influenced by technologies.  No longer do people want to, or have time to, browse the library shelves or search the physical file stack.  Many people want information delivered to their desktop and want it NOW. “Google it” has become part of everyday language.

My biggest challenge has been to match the way the end users want to get information with the way the suppliers deliver it and to have a happy bunch of people at both ends of the process.  That  didn’t always happen.

A personal challenge has been to find a substitute for work colleagues to bounce ideas off and to keep up to date with current trends. That has been most interesting and very rewarding

So what is ahead in the next ten years for Terrace Consulting?

More of the same I have no doubt.  Also for some time now I’ve been aware that new businesses get little if any advice on how to keep good business records.

2012 will see the development of instructional advice on the Terrace web site, using a range of media, to small and medium business owners and managers on a range of record keeping and information management issues.  First off the block will be instructions on how to manage email – this seems to be the big issue for 2012.

Thank you everyone who have been part of this journey over the past 10 years. Without you I couldn’t have done it.  I hope you’ll continue to be on my journey from 2012.


Paper or electronic filing – or both?

Do you store your business information in paper format or in electronic formats? Or both?  Do you remember the logic behind your decision about what to file where and in what format? How do you decide what to do with incoming items?

It can be very confusing when you start to think about a filing system for your business.  You have the electronic files you create; you have stuff coming by email and other stuff coming in paper form through your PO Box and that suppliers hand to you in paper format.

Electronic filing only

If you decide you are only going to have an electronic filing system, you need to be able to scan all the valuable paper business information that arrives at your business.  You need access to a scanner and have a routine so that the scanning gets done regularly. If you don’t, the scanning is left to pile up in an ‘in tray’ or a ‘to be scanned’ tray.   And then it becomes a real chore, just like any pile of filing.

Your process needs to include selecting what paper information you will find useful in the future, useful enough to make the effort to scan and keep.

Then you need to have a list of topic headings so you can store similar information in the same place each time, even if bits of information come in weeks or even months apart.  Scanning and then storing the scanned item on your desktop or in ‘My documents’ may work while you only have a few documents.  It’s going to become hard to find once the volume builds as your business grows.

Hybrid filing – paper and electronic

You may prefer to store the paper based information in physical folders instead of scanning them. But then you have the issue of finding relevant electronic information when you want to see everything to form a full picture.

You can do this by using the same list of topics or subjects for both your paper and electronic files. When you start out you may get away with a simple list, maybe in alphabetical order.  As your business grows, you will probably need to have sub-headings.

Paper filing only

Obviously this is the other side of the first option described above.  If you are going to use a paper filing system as your ‘official’ business you will need to print out everything that you produce from your computer and put the printed version in your paper files.

This will be very time consuming and probably counter-productive.  I don’t recommend this but it is workable if you really need everything in paper.  After all it was the only way to file business information before we got computers


De-mystify your email inbox

When I’ve been talking to people in recent weeks, their eyes have lit up when I say that I can help them manage their email inbox.

Email inboxes seem to be dreaded by many people for a variety of reasons. For instance:

  • Your inbox is so full that new incoming emails are blocked so you can’t receive them
  • You know there is an email in there somewhere that you need to reply to but you can’t find it
  • Your business emails are all mixed up with personal stuff
  • You have subscribed to various e-newsletters but never seem to get to read them and they’re cluttering up your inbox

You’ve opened them all and read some but not all. So you don’t really know what action you need to take if any but you don’t want to delete them in case there might be something important in them. But you never get around to checking.

You wonder how other people manage their email. Well – judging from the response I’ve had recently, a lot of people don’t!

You think there must be a better way. Well –there is.

First up take a look at recent emails – say over the last month and note how you can sort them into groups. When you sit down and think about it you might find you have emails from clients or customers, from suppliers, from sales people, from friends and relatives.

Or you might look at the different topics of the emails and decide to group your email messages by topic.

It doesn’t really matter how you group them or what you call the groups. The important thing is that it makes sense to you and anyone else in your business who needs to access your emails.

Next, check out the email product you’re using and see if there is a way of setting up separate folders for each of the groups of email senders you’ve identified.

If you’re using Gmail you can create folders for each group you want.

Gmail has a priority inbox where it automatically puts some emails that it thinks are important for you. You can put stars on some emails so they stand out amongst the rest and you can add them to a To-do list.

Gmail priority inbox


Other email products will do similar things to help you to keep your email under control.

The products can only help you so far though. To really manage an overflowing inbox you need to have some good habits. Like taking time to empty your inbox regularly. Once you get into good email habits you’ll find you can delete unnecessary messages as you go rather than having them build up and causing a clutter that is a pain to get rid of.

More on good email habits next time.