How to Get Your Work Email Under Control

Why is work email so stressful? Most emails can be read and responded to in under a minute, so the amount of anxiety we feel when checking our inboxes seems disproportionate to the amount of effort the task takes. 

In an interview with Business Insider, psychologist Ron Friedman explains why work email takes such a toll on employees. He says, “The reason it can feel overwhelming to find lots of emails in your work inbox is that each message represents another demand on your time and another decision you have to make. Even deciphering a generic announcement about the office coffee maker requires effort, which leaves less energy for work that matters.”

Work email also has a sneaky way of monopolizing your time. All those “quick” emails add up to an alarming number of hours each day. Adobe did an email usage study in 2016 that found employees spend over four hours every weekday on work emails. 

While you can’t simply stop checking your inbox, there are many ways to optimize it so it’s less stressful.

Secure your inbox

Cybersecurity is so important in today’s workplace, but very few companies make it a priority to train employees on common security threats. If you think an endless sea of unread emails is stressful, just wait until the sensitive business file you emailed gets hacked. 

The first step in your email management plan should be to protect your business data from outside threats so you never have to worry about causing a serious security breach. 

Follow these three tips to make your email more secure:

  1. Never send files via email

Intercepting an emailed file is child’s play for a hacker. Email providers simply aren’t set up to keep attachments safe. Instead, use a file sharing service such as Onehub that offers bank-level encryption and secure network connections to protect your messages and files. 

An added benefit of using a file-sharing service is never having to dig through huge email threads looking for files. Onehub keeps files organized and has a powerful search tool to ensure you can always find what you’re looking for.

  1. Don’t open links or attachments from unfamiliar email addresses.

Clicking a link or opening an attachment in a spam email is the most common way computers get infected with malware. If you accidentally open a spam email, you’re ok as long as you don’t click anything. Delete it or report it as spam to get it out of your inbox. 

  1. Keep your computer, phone, antivirus software, and internet browser updated.

Updates can be annoying because they sometimes take a while and can interrupt your work; however, it’s essential to stay on top of them. Updates are often issued after a security vulnerability has been discovered. If you postpone updates, your devices and software could be vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Organize your emails

Ever wonder how those “inbox zero” people do it? We did, too, so we looked into it. It turns out the answer is simple: They have a system. They’ve utilized every trick they know to customize their inboxes to a system that works best for them, and they maintain it. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution for inbox organization, but we’ve collected the best tips for you to test out on your journey to inbox perfection. 

Create folders, but keep them simple

It’s much easier to keep your emails organized if you sort them into different folders; however, you don’t want to go overboard with it. Having too many will make it harder to keep track of things and organizing emails into their respective folders will become too time consuming. 

The goal with folders is to essentially turn your primary inbox into a holding zone where you quickly review new emails and either respond immediately or send them to the appropriate folder to be dealt with later. 

Try to create a system with no more than five custom folders. The types of folders you make will depend on your personal preferences. For example, you could create a folder for emails that need to be handled before the end of the day and another folder for emails that require a response but aren’t time sensitive. 

Another helpful option to consider is an “FYI” folder. This folder is for emails that don’t require a response and contain important information you’ll likely need to reference in the future. 

Play around with different folder combinations until you find the right system for you.

Here’s how to create folders in Outlook and Gmail

Archive

You never know when you might need an email, so hitting “delete” can feel too permanent. You can still clean up your inbox by archiving old emails. Archiving emails transfers them out of your inbox and into an archive folder where they can be retrieved later if needed. 

Here’s how to archive emails in Outlook and Gmail.

Unsubscribe 

If you’ve acquired email subscriptions that aren’t useful to you anymore, unsubscribe from them. Even if you know you don’t have to read or respond to them, seeing unread emails in your inbox is visually distracting and creates unnecessary clutter.

Save time and stress

Create canned messages

Templated messages can save you an enormous amount of time, but they do come with one caveat. Always make sure you’ve customized any placeholder text in your message before you hit send. 

No one wants to feel like they weren’t worth an original response, so receiving an obviously templated message can sting a bit. This is especially important if you’re sending a canned message to a customer or client. 

A good failsafe is to cut the recipient’s email from the address field, select the canned response, customize the message, and then paste their email back in. If you get ahead of yourself and press the send button before you’ve updated the placeholders, you’ll receive an error message. This is your sign to review the text and make the necessary changes before pasting in the email address and hitting send again.

Here are three situations that are perfect candidates for a canned response:

  1. Declining an offer or request

A canned response is perfect if you regularly receive offers or requests from vendors, nonprofits, or other external sources. Keep it short and to the point to discourage follow-up emails.

“Thank you for reaching out, but I’m not interested. 

Best, 

[Name]”

  1. Scheduling a meeting

Avoid all the back-and-forth that comes with trying to schedule a meeting with someone. Instead, send a templated response with a link to your calendar.

“Hi [Name],

I’m looking forward to meeting with you about [XYZ]. Here is a link to my calendar. [Link] Please choose a time that works best for you.

Kind regards, 

[Name]”

  1. Avoiding a meeting

Meetings are time and energy intensive. If you’re too busy for a meeting or you’re not convinced yet that the topic is worthy of a meeting, send a canned response that will keep the discussion on email. 

“Hi [Name],

I’m interested in learning more about [XYZ], but my schedule is full at the moment. Let’s continue the discussion via email for now. 

Thank you!

[Name]”

Here’s how to create email templates in Outlook and Gmail.

Turn off desktop notifications for new emails

New email notifications can quickly derail your productivity. If you’re working on something, you don’t need to be interrupted every time a message lands in your inbox. Most employees obsessively check their work email, so even if you receive an important message, it won’t sit in your inbox unseen for too long. 

Here’s how to turn off desktop notifications for Outlook and Gmail.

When all else fails, abandon ship

If your inbox is so out of hand that you don’t feel you can salvage it with the tips above, it’s time for extreme measures. 

Create a folder called “Old Email” or something similar, and move all of your emails into that folder. If any current messages still need your attention, you can handpick them out of the “Old Email” folder and move them back to the main one. 

After this, your primary folder will be a clean slate. You can use the tips we’ve covered to create a new system to prevent another inbox implosion. 

Here’s how to move emails in bulk for Outlook and Gmail.

Email is always going to be part of your work day, so it’s worth investing some time to keep things organized. An organized and secure inbox will pay long-term dividends. It gives you peace of mind and allows you to use your energy for work that actually matters. 

If you’re starting your journey to inbox zero, Onehub can give you a much safer alternative to emailing files. Sign up today for a free 14-day trial!

Streamlining Document Approvals for Better Project Management

Project managers are the unsung superheroes of the professional world, but document approvals are their kryptonite. All the delicate work of navigating a team’s disparate personalities, accounting for their strengths and weaknesses, and keeping a close eye on approaching deadlines is for naught if the work isn’t approved in a timely manner. 

Every project reaches a point where work can’t continue without another person’s approval, usually a paying client. So, how do you get a document approved on time without harassing your client? 

Create a secure, standardized system for document approvals

Select the right business software

We’re well past the days of managing projects with paper files strewn across desks or never-ending email threads with attachments buried so deep you’ll never see them again. 

Successful companies need technology solutions such as Onehub to keep documents organized, provide secure file sharing and storage, enable easy collaboration, and give admins total control over each users’ access level. 

If your company doesn’t have designated software for file sharing and project management, or what you have isn’t fully meeting your team’s needs, it’s time to find a better way. 

A great tech solution for project management will include: 

Secure file sharing

File security is number one on this list because it should be a non-negotiable requirement for any business software you’re considering. Business files are too valuable to risk a security breach. It puts your company’s intellectual property at risk and can permanently damage your brand’s reputation if your customer data is leaked. 

Onehub uses bank-level encryption to provide the best protection for your company’s files and communications. We take data security very seriously, and any business software provider you’re considering should do the same.

Easy approvals

It’s human nature to put off tasks that seem like a hassle, so document approvals need to be as easy as possible to ensure clients get to them quickly.

Look for software that conveniently keeps everything in one place and sends automatic notifications about approval tasks. Automatic notifications mean you don’t have to worry about informing your clients about the documents waiting for their review.

For maximum convenience, when clients click the link within their notification, they should be able to easily access the document and read any related comments left for them by your team.

In-browser document previews are another great feature to look for. It saves clients time and hassle by eliminating the need to download the file and open it in another application. When the moment finally comes for the client’s approval, they should be able to do it with one simple click. 

Roles and permissions for security

While you need client approvals to complete projects, you don’t necessarily want to give them free rein within the project management platform. 

Most projects have a mix of files that are client facing and ones that are only meant for internal use. It’s important to keep all these project files together for organization and convenience, but you need to control what your clients can see. Software with precise roles and permissions makes this easy.

It’s also important to consider what you want your clients to do with the files. For example, if you’ve submitted a document for approval that contains carefully worded legal statements, you probably don’t want your client changing those directly in the document. Instead, you can give view-only privileges, and the client can leave a comment with the concerns they want addressed before final approval. 

To keep approvals on track and sensitive files secure, be sure to select a provider that offers granular control over roles and permissions.

Collaboration tools

Collaboration is an essential part of any well-functioning business. An all-in-one platform that provides collaboration features in addition to data security and easy approvals will ensure you get the most out of your project management solution. 

Some of the most important collaboration tools are messaging, task assignments, file synchronization, and file version control. Messaging and tasks support easy communication between colleagues and make it clear what work needs to be done. File syncing and version control keep everyone working with the most up-to-date information no matter what devices they’re using. 

Standardize the procedure

Have a written plan for document approvals. Include this information as part of your onboarding and make the information easily accessible to all employees.

The plan should cover these basics:

  1. How to submit a document for approval
  2. How to notify the client that there’s a document ready for them to review
  3. What level of file access clients need for approval 
  4. How to set a deadline for the approval

The details of how these steps work will vary depending on the business software your company uses. 

In Onehub, admins can invite clients to a digital Workspace or Client Portal and choose the level of access they should have. Employees can then add the document that needs approval to the platform and create an approval task for the client that includes a deadline. The client will automatically receive a notification once the task has been assigned. They can easily view the task, notes, and document in one place, and they can finalize the approval with one click. 

When you make your document approvals simple, clients are less likely to put off doing them. It also makes it much easier for the team to keep track of any comments or questions a client may have in addition to tracking approvals.

Educate your clients on document approvals

One big reason clients may delay approving a project milestone is that they’re not sure how to do it properly. Managers tend to focus on instructing their teams on what needs to be done for a client’s project and often overlook the fact that the client needs instruction, too. 

Clients need to know 2 key things about document approvals

How do they approve a document? 

Your client needs to know how to provide approvals. These days, most companies use business software to share files securely, communicate with their teams efficiently, and keep important documents organized. 

The software your company uses may not be familiar to your client. Document approvals that seem obvious to you could leave your clients feeling overwhelmed or confused as they navigate an unfamiliar platform. 

It only takes a few minutes to educate your clients on where to find the documents submitted for approval, how to leave comments or questions for your team, and how to finalize approval.

What is the deadline for the document approval?

Your team may need approvals done within a specific time period to keep the project on deadline, but did anyone tell the client that? 

Clients don’t know how your team works or how long specific tasks will take to complete. If the final project deadline is weeks away, they may feel they have plenty of time to review milestone documents. Meanwhile, your team is staring at the clock trying to figure out how they’ll manage to complete the rest of their work within the ever-shrinking time frame.

With just a little instruction, your clients will feel more confident with the document review process and will understand the need for prompt approvals. Rather than a hindrance, client approvals will become a valuable part of your project management. 

Putting it all together

To keep your projects running smoothly, you need a document approval plan, client education, and a robust technology solution that provides secure file sharing, simple approvals, and valuable collaboration features.

Try out Onehub’s file-sharing and project management tools to see how much better document approvals can be. Sign up today for our free 14-day trial!

Your Guide to Collaboration That Empowers Your Team

Collaboration is an essential tool for an organization’s success. It’s also one of the most difficult to master. Many company executives have gone to great lengths to foster workplace collaboration, from open-plan offices to extravagant team-building retreats. 

Judging by the responses to a recent survey, these efforts haven’t been successful. Nearly 90% of employees blame workplace failures on a lack of collaboration or ineffective communication. 

Designing office spaces to enhance teamwork and encouraging employees to meet in person regularly have long been the go-to tactics for fostering a collaborative work environment. As the general workforce becomes more distributed and focused on remote technology, companies face even more challenges.

Whether your team works together in person or on separate continents, the tips below will empower your employees’ collaborative efforts. 

Improve communication 

Collaboration centers around communication, so it’s the perfect place to start building a team that works together well. 

Make communication a standard practice in the office. Have regular staff meetings to remind everyone of the company’s goals and keep them informed about the progress and remaining tasks on any big projects. This will also give employees ample opportunities to ask questions and present their ideas within a group setting. When this becomes the modus operandi, your team will begin to feel more comfortable working alongside their colleagues (literally or remotely). 

Online collaboration tools can help you establish this new communication-focused routine. With Onehub, you can create a digital Workspace dedicated to your team’s collaborative efforts. All relevant files are stored in the Workspace for easy access, and comments and messaging allow colleagues to reach out at any time with questions or ideas.

By providing specific collaboration tools and making it clear to your team that communication is a priority, you’re establishing a positive environment where collaboration can thrive. 

Share resources 

The adage “Knowledge is power” is especially fitting in the workplace. It’s no coincidence that companies store hundreds of terabytes of data. All that information is a valuable resource, and employees need to access it regularly to do their jobs well. 

In addition to accessing information resources, your employees also need help in the form of online collaboration tools. These types of digital resources aren’t only for remote teams. The Millennial generation will soon make up the majority of the workforce, and they’re much more productive when communicating and collaborating through technology. They are radically changing the workplace dynamic, and digital team tools are becoming a basic necessity for good collaboration.  

When evaluating online collaboration tools to offer your team, think safety first. Secure file storage and sharing are of the utmost importance. Earlier, we mentioned that data is a valuable resource for your team. Unfortunately, it is also valuable to hackers. That means your business files need to be protected by high-level security protocols such as encryption, two-factor authentication, and granular access permissions.

Once you’ve ensured the cloud storage and file-sharing provider has your data security covered, the next feature to look at is functionality. Is the software easy to use? Does it provide ways for your team to communicate within the platform? Does it offer a robust selection of document collaboration tools? 

Collaborative team tools such as Onehub’s file versioning and syncing allow employees to work together more efficiently. Nothing brings document collaboration to a halt faster than someone working from the wrong version of a file or in a file that isn’t synced. It’s a trainwreck, and workers lose precious time and momentum as they try to fix it. You can make sure no one on your team has to suffer through that fate again by providing them with the online collaboration tools they need. 

Define roles

Unclear expectations can derail a project quickly (and may also lead to employee burnout). You can encourage better collaboration by defining each member’s role. If multiple departments are working together, be sure to identify each team’s overall purpose within the project. 

If certain roles require access to sensitive business files, Onehub can help you create digital roles within the platform. With granular permission settings, you can store all project files in one convenient location while only allowing certain users to access confidential information. Our “view as” feature allows you to preview the Workspace in different roles to double check that everyone’s been assigned the correct level of access.

Employees also need clear guidance on what tasks they need to complete. For complex projects, especially ones with multiple deadlines, it’s helpful to have a “task” tool in your chosen business software that allows you to assign tasks to each team member. 

In Onehub’s interface, admins can view all assigned tasks or sort them by employee to check overall or individual progress. Each employee can see what tasks they have assigned to them, so they always know exactly what’s expected of them. This feature also allows managers to monitor everyone’s workload and prevent anyone from being buried under a mountain of work.

Whether you choose to go digital or analog to assign project roles and tasks, this level of clarity is essential for good workplace collaboration. 

Encourage brainstorming

Create a physical or digital workspace where employees can connect to brainstorm. There should be a strict “no bad ideas” policy to encourage everyone to share their thoughts, even if they aren’t fully formed yet. This establishes a creative, collaborative atmosphere where all employees have equal opportunities to be heard without judgment. This is a fantastic way to come up with fresh ideas to move your business forward, and it doubles as a team-building exercise that will enhance future collaborations. 

To ensure no brilliant ideas get overlooked, create and share a file with the team that recaps each brainstorming session. Team members can easily access the document whenever they need some inspiration. You never know — there may be some gems in there that will inspire a future project!

Onehub can set your team up for successful collaboration. Sign up today for a free 14-day trial to see all the ways we can help. 

Increase Your Team’s Effectiveness With File Organization and Proven Productivity Methods

Encouraging employees to boost their productivity is a huge point of focus for most companies, and it’s not just about the bottom line anymore. When your employees can optimize their work processes, projects get done faster and with much less stress. Employee burnout is real, and focusing on organization and productivity can offset burnout and lead to happier employees.

Optimizing work productivity is a very personal process, but you can help your team find what works best for them. There will be diverse opinions about the productivity methods below. The system that makes one employee light up with ideas might make another shudder. That said, everyone needs one thing before trying to overhaul their productivity — organization. 

Build your productivity method on a foundation of organization

All the tried-and-true productivity systems below will work better if everything you need to do your work is organized and easily accessible. 

Businesses run on data. For most employees, that means their work heavily involves reviewing, editing, or sharing files among colleagues or clients.

If your company has its file storage and sharing needs in tip-top shape, your employees are already primed for success. Share the popular methods below with your team to inspire them to take their productivity to the next level. 

If your company’s files are difficult to find or share, your team wastes time every day (while becoming increasingly stressed out) trying to navigate these unnecessary obstacles. No productivity method can overcome disorganized information, so it’s important to address this before trying different productivity methods with your team.

Onehub’s robust business software can take the headache out of file organization and sharing. Our virtual Workspaces are intuitive to use and protect your data with secure file sharing. Addressing organization, the first building block of productivity, will pay huge dividends as your team steadily improves their performance. Try Onehub for free for 14 days!

Four effective productivity methods

The Pomodoro Technique

The Pomodoro Technique has been around since the 1990s. It’s a widely used productivity method that focuses on short bursts of work followed by brief breaks. 

The traditional breakdown is 25 minutes of work followed by a five-minute break. This is considered one “Pomodoro.” You rinse and repeat until you’ve done four Pomodoros, and then you take a longer break, typically about 30 minutes.

The keys to making this technique successful are to actually set a timer, and during those 25, minutes only work on one task. Timing yourself creates a sense of urgency that keeps you focused and allows you to get more done in less time. 

This method helps you maintain focus while keeping you feeling fresh and recharged with the frequent breaks. It’s also a great reminder to get up and move around, so it encourages healthier work practices.

Onehub’s Google Drive and Microsoft 365 integrations work perfectly with this technique. If you alternate tasks with each Pomodoro, you can keep your work within the platform and know that your files will be saved and ready to go when it’s time to switch back.

Best for: Repetitive work.

This method is excellent for people whose work can be easily adapted to short bursts of activity. Updating spreadsheets, making sales calls, and processing customer orders are all examples of the sort of work that could benefit from the Pomodoro Technique.

Not for: Creative professionals.

People with creative jobs such as graphic designers or copywriters might find this technique too disruptive. When you’re in the zone, you want to keep that inspiration going, and frequent breaks can derail creative efforts.   

Biological Prime Time

The Biological Prime Time method is all about catering to your natural rhythms to increase your productivity.

The original system involves a dedicated three-week period in which you track your energy level every hour. During this testing phase, you cut out all coffee, soda, and alcohol. These affect your performance, and the goal is to find your natural highs and lows throughout the day. Once you’ve collected your data, you create a chart to identify your peak times for productivity and focus. 

There’s also a less scientific way to do this — go with what you know. Most people already know if they’re morning people or if they feel more energized in the afternoon. They just aren’t taking advantage of that knowledge yet. 

Whether you do the full three-week tracking period or you go with what you know, the goal is to schedule tasks in a way that aligns with your natural peak performance times. 

For example, if you feel more energized and focused in the morning, prioritize your to-do list in a way that lets you get the most difficult tasks done early. You want to schedule simple tasks such as filing paperwork or checking emails during your off-peak hours. You can also use your periods of low energy to take a break from your work. 

Cloud technology makes it easier than ever to work according to your biological schedule. The cloud allows you to work from anywhere at any time, giving you the flexibility to work when you’re at your best. 

Best for: Adaptable to everyone.

The original method for identifying your Biological Prime Time may be daunting for many people, but everyone can benefit from customizing their schedule to their natural energy highs and lows. If cutting out caffeine and spending three weeks tracking your energy every hour is out of the question, you can still benefit from this system. Just use the “go with what you know” method.

Eat the Frog

Eat the Frog is a popular productivity method that focuses on doing the most daunting task on your list first. 

It doesn’t necessarily have to be the most challenging or time-intensive task. The “frog” is whatever task you’re dreading the most — the one you see on your to-do list and can’t help but groan. It could be something as simple as replying to an email or as complicated as planning a website redesign. 

We often put off tasks we’re dreading, but this just gives us time to stress out and kvetch about them. When you eat the frog, you save yourself time and stress. Once you’ve checked off the annoying to-do item, the rest of your list will seem easy breezy.  

Start your day by creating your to-do list in Onehub using the tasks feature. Start with your frog, and then check your tasks tab to review the rest of your to-do items. Onehub will keep your tasks organized and easy to review throughout the day.

Best for: People who get derailed by stressful tasks.

This method is best for people who tend to let the stress of one task build up too much and affect their whole day. Once you eat the frog, you can face the rest of your schedule with a clear head.  

Not for: Employees on deadlines.

If you’re often working on tight deadlines, your first task should be to complete that work even if it isn’t the froggiest item on your to-do list. 

Active Procrastination

Yes, there is a productivity method based on procrastination. 

Procrastination has always had a bad reputation, but some psychology researchers have found a new way to look at it. They argue that there are two forms of procrastination, active and passive. 

Passive procrastination is when someone puts off a task because they find it too overwhelming or are frozen with indecision. This passive form of procrastination is what leads to negative effects such as anxiety and missed deadlines. 

Active procrastination is a conscious decision to put off doing a task to create a higher level of pressure around it. For people who are wired to respond well to pressure, this method can improve their creativity and focus. 

When it’s finally time to get down to business, you need to be able to take off at a sprint. Make sure the files and tools you need are easy to access. Onehub keeps all your relevant files, tasks, and messages handy in your Workspace, and the Google Drive and Microsoft 365 integrations mean you can preview, edit, share, and save documents without leaving the platform. Every minute counts when you actively procrastinate!

Best for: People who do their best work under pressure.

People who have a history of working well under pressure might find this method ingenious. If a looming deadline is what gets your gears turning, you can use that to your advantage by strategically delaying certain tasks.

Not for: People who get stressed under pressure.

Active Procrastination has a narrower target audience than any other methods on this list. It only works for people who thrive under pressure. If your mind goes blank when faced with a high-pressure deadline, this isn’t the system for you.

Sign up for our 14-day free trial to see how much more efficient your team can be with proper organization, securing file sharing, and collaborative tools.