Working from home, juggling the chores, kids (bless you if you got one or a handful!), trying to order in your groceries AND keeping yourself fit and clean is a breeze for those who have been doing it all along and had chosen the ‘laptop lifestyle’ or been #wfh way before the whole COVID-19 lockdown came to place.
For the others, it’s a whole different ball game.
A couple of weeks ago I had shared the Complete Set Of Free Tools To Work From Home that would help any small business owner work from home, using Zoho Remotely. Unfortunately, this service would be available for free only until the 1st of July. So, what if you want to keep doing what you do, without buying expensive (or inexpensive) tools? Are there any tools that fully support working from home forever, and for free?
Yes, there is. Gmail.
Before you dive in (or turn away) hear me out. It’s not just the tools. It’s HOW you use them.
Having worked with a lot of small biz owners, startups etc for the past 8 years through GBG (Google Business Group) what we’ve found out is that the majority of business owners who have Gmail or even the paid version, Gsuite, pretty much use Gmail ONLY. But there’s an entire world of super useful and helpful tools beyond Gmail, that comes to you totally free with your Google account.
Gmail and the associated group of free tools come with 15GB storage for free. And in case you have increase it up to 100GB (which is what I’ve done), you only have to pay $1.99 (300 LKR) per month.
Okay, so first, let’s see what are all the free tools you get with your Free Gmail and what it helps you do.
Gmail And the Family of Supporting Apps
First, let’s go through the most essential tools for your day-to-day work, no matter which industry your business is. Then, let’s talk about the additional, good-to-have tools you get.
This is of course, the email. But why I personally love Gmail than most other email service providers, is the following;
- Priority Inbox – Your inbox can be broken down into priority, promo stuff, social media updates on email etc. And you can train your gmail over time, which emails are priority and which are not.
- Delay send – In case you have a last minute realization after hitting the send button, you have 30 seconds to change your mind and hit “Undo”. You have no idea how many times this little feature has saved my life!!
- Scheduled send – Checking emails really late night or too early in the morning (like I wake around 3.00 AM and decide to reply emails lol). You don’t really want to come off as lazy or over enthusiastic. This feature is awesome when you want to schedule the email to be sent at whatever the time/date you want.
- Snooze – This is perfect for when you read an email but don’t want to reply right now cuz you have other things going on but you don’t want to forget it. You can tell Gmail to send that email again, so you see it pop up on your notification and this time, you’re ready to reply.
What’s the big deal about the Google Calendar? EVERYTHING! This little piece of app pretty much helps me plan my entire day AND life. I can schedule all my webinars, meetings, calls, all sorts of reminders and birthdays and anniversaries that remind me every single year!
But the biggest use I’ve had since last year – Calendar Blocking!
Some call it time blocking and I call it calendar blocking since I first learned this method through Amy Landino’s YouTube Tutorial last year. There are different methods to this madness under different names but basically what it is, you schedule every single task that you have to get done during the week, with pre-defined time durations. For example blogging would take 2 hrs, a meeting would take 45 min and you actually block your calendar using different (or same) color codes so that you plan your time and figure out how much of work can actually go into your day and week.
This really has been a lifesaver and a time saver, if you also add in the practice of time batching, where you group similar tasks together.
Google Drive is where ALLLL my work is done.
- Docs = Word
- Sheets = Excel
- Slides = PowerPoint
- Forms = just an awesome add-on to do quizzes, surveys, online registrations etc along with many other tools.
I currently use a Macbook Air and when I first got this, many people told me that I might have to install Windows OS or at least have MSword as I wouldn’t be able to actually work. I obviously did not install Windows. It sounded ridiculous as the biggest reason I was looking to switch from PC to Mac was to quit having to use slooww Windows OS. And I’m never going back!
I do have MSword but that’s used for downloading and uploading for those who don’t have Gmail or Gsuite AND insist on attachments. You can “do” all your work on Google Drive and share them via drive. And you can even work offline while travelling or when there’s no internet when you make the docs available offline.
This is what I use for meetings and informal chatting or other conversations.
Meet is quite similar to Hangouts Video calls and Meet gives you the option to get in a video call with a group as large as 100 people. This is now available directly on all Free Gmail accounts and will probably be available through September 2020 only. Check out my previous post on Google Meet.
Either way, with Hangouts you can chat, audio call and video call – one on one as well as in groups. Audio and video calls for groups of only 10 people but that’s good enough for a small biz. Duo is best for one-on-one calls and works best on mobile, although the browser version is also available.
For unlimited one-to-many or public video calls or conferences, my best recommendation is still, YouTube Live and broadcast all over the world. So this would be the other option, apart from of course, watching and uploading recorded videos, for which YouTube is most known for.
If you also use Gmail/Google account on your smartphone, you can save all your contacts on your gmail contact list. This way, no matter which phone you use, which mobile service provider you switch to, your contacts are always in one place – your Google Contacts.
GMB (Google My Business)
Last but not the least Google My Business. This is another massive set of tools and services for your small business. Specifically if you have a physical shop or office.
I’m not going to go into detail with this one, since it’s more like another story for another day. I just wanted to point you to a resource and let you explore this one one your own. If you do have any questions however, you can always drop a comment or drop me a Messenger chat, and I’ll be happy to help.
If you’re a Srilankan small biz, you can directly email the Google Business Group Colombo at email@example.com or drop a Messenger Chat so me or someone else from the team can help you out. GBG (Google Business Groups) are also available in many other cities so if you have a specific “local business” issue, go ahead and connect with them to get help.
Google Classroom is mainly for the educators. If you run a school or any type of educational institution, this is a really neat tool where you can organize your lessons, plan out the homework, schedule the work to be sent to your students daily or weekly or whichever frequency you want and get their feedback or homework in one place as well as the option to grade them so you, the students (and their parents – if applicable) can see the progress.
If you don’t have a real Jamboard, this is your online alternative to a whiteboard (Or Jamboard lol) You can easily incorporate this tool in your presentations when you need a whiteboard but your camera is always going to show a mirror image of a physical whiteboard and it’s annoying to switch. Together with Google slides and Jamboard, your presentations are going to be the coolest ever!
This is for note-taking. It’s my personal EverNote substitute. I personally find it way better than EverNote cuz it gets the job done. Recently, Google connected Keep with Docs so now you can save your quick notes on the phone and transfer to Google Drive for better storage and indexing. You can write, take picture notes, save sound bites, draw, create checkable lists, and do all sorts of things for quick note-taking.
This tool saves all your mobile phone storage for photos and videos. Install this on your phone and quickly back up all your pics and vids and get a clean slate on your mobile phone photo gallery. YAY!
This is well, for blogging. It’s almost the same as WordPress + you get some Google Ad space love from Google. I won’t write much on this but you can check out the details here.
You did know that you can create your personal collections off your Google Search queries, right? You can access these collections right from your Gmail. That’s pretty much it.
How to Work From Home, Plan, Collaborate and Be Productive
Okay, now you know all the features of the bucketload of tools that you get with your FREE Gmail. So how do you plan your work, and get all productive with these tools in a practical sense?
It’s easier than you think!
Back in March, just as we went into lockdown (in Sri Lanka), I put together a checklist of activities, how to set up and how to carry out your daily work. I got a lot of feedback that this was useful for many so I’ll share a link to the white sheet I put together.
Free Resource – How To Work From Home & Be Productive [Download]
You can check this out online it’s FREE to access. If you like, you can even download and keep it in your drive and share with anyone you want. I might do some updates if and when it makes sense but it’ll stay online right where it is and available for free forever.
You’re welcome! 😬
Oh, and let me know what “productivity hacks” team collab efforts and time saving or time management tools YOU use in your business or work. I’d love to check them out and discover new tools and ways.
Check out this growing list of FREE tools, services, and resources offered in support of small businesses facing the COVID-19 global crisis. 👇https://indunanayakkara.wordpress.com/2020/05/01/support-for-small-businesses-during-coronavirus-covid-19/Tweet