Email isn’t a productivity killer unless…

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As with every other productivity tool, what really matters with email is how you use it. If email is draining your work productivity, it’s probably because you’re doing one or more of these:


  1. you make it the aim of your workday to achieve Zero-Inbox status.

    Let’s face it: the more email you send, the more you’ll receive. Set aside some time daily to respond to selective emails that are urgent and important. Mark the rest for

    later follow up
    .

  2. you believe email is real-time.

    It isn’t. And doesn’t need to be instantly responded to. If you need

    (and only if you need!)

    to initiate a real-time conversation, use IM, or make a phone call. Or even better, make it a face-to-face conversation, if that’s possible.

  3. you believe in the ‘a folder for every email and every email into a folder’ rule.

    Heard of

    Email OCD
    ? If you’re spending a lot of time just moving your mail into folders, you’re wasting valuable time that could be spent on other important tasks. Instead,

    make automated rules
     for emails that absolutely must be organized into folders. Leave the rest in your inbox.

  4. you need to hunt for emails manually, one folder at a time.

    Every time you have to look for that all-important email that suddenly needs to be referred to,

    use an advanced search feature
     to fish it out. Not only will this save you search time, it will minimize your dependency on folder-organization too (see the point above)

  5. you use the ‘reply-all’ function for every email.

    Before you use ‘reply-all’ and reply to everyone who is marked on an email, think about whether your reply will be relevant and / useful for all the intended recipients. If not, mark the email to only those who will benefit from reading it. It’s good email etiquette and saves everybody (including you!) a whole lot of time.

  6. you use email for debates and discussions.

    A more productive way to encourage ideas, discussions and brainstorms within your team(s) and / customers is to use an internal discussion forum. At Zoho, we use

    Zoho Discussions
     for all such “discussions”.

  7. you only send / check your email at the desk.

    Being able to check email on your mobile device is a necessary evil. You can spend time outside your office, meeting your customers and prospects, and yet, still find time to

    check email while you’re on the move
    . Remember to do this judiciously though, for not all email needs to be read / responded to.

  8. you check email during face-to face / telephonic interactions with people.

    Avoid doing this at all costs. For one, it’s rude. Also, you miss out on important conversations and the chance to make an impact on your audience.

Are there any other email-productivity-killing-habits that you can add to this list? Which email habit are you going to change today?

How we took Zoho CRM’s UI from “The Worst” to “S-U-P-E-R-B!”

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In Quick – out quick, nobody gets hurt” – That captures what we set out to do with our new CRM. Thanks, Gary, for noticing it.

But we must admit that was not always the case. Our old UI was pretty bad. Why? And most importantly – why and how did we fix it?

Well, traditionally we focused on the MANAGEMENT side of Sales. We were making CRM Administrators and VPs of Sales happy.  Their goal is to automate the entire sales process and also get insight into their sales funnel! With our features around Customization, Role Based Security, Workflow Management, Web Forms, Reports and Dashboards and so on, that was very easy to do.

For example, this is the kind of feedback we were getting from THAT audience.

 @sarahschaeff: Loving the flexibility & functionality in @zohocrm
So we were making sales execs and CRM admins happy. But what about the daily users?

The WORST UI! That’s what Meaghan said. We needed to hear that. Thanks again, Meaghan. We took that to heart.

By talking with our users, sales & marketing folks – the people who cannot live without a CRM system on a day-to-day basis – we learned what should have been obvious since the beginning: they want to sell more and spend very little time inside their CRM. To be more productive is all they wanted. Consider your typical sales rep. Their focus is to qualify more leads, close more deals and meet the monthly sales targets. They don’t like spending time inside the CRM system and updating status.

So then we asked ourselves questions like:

How do Sales people behave inside a CRM system?
- What do they expect a CRM system to offer?

- What are their CRM usage patterns?

And then we understood. We needed to provide a balance between Automation and Productivity. Our feature set was good enough to automate any business, but we had to re-design the user interface of Zoho CRM for easier navigation and data access. It should be a CRM system that helps Sales Reps to focus more on managing their customer relationships and less on CRMing.

After 9 months of iteration and iteration, the outcome of our efforts is almost ready:   

So we were, understandably so, elated when we saw Gary’s tweet. We think we’re on the right track.

Here are some of the highlights of the new design:

An new, organized setup.
The Setup page is better organized with all links grouped under relevant headings. It’s easier to find what you are looking for and there’s no more scrolling.

The Business Card View. Goodbye Scrolling!
When clicking a contact, you’ll find the basic information at the top of the page. So, if you have a call with a contact, you do not have to hunt for details like the phone number or the account name. It’s right where you can see it.



Faster access to customer conversations
Right below the Business Card view is the Notes section – which you can get to quickly during a call. And we made it easier for sales reps to enter notes. And from our very own, internal experience, usage of notes inside CRM sky-rocketed.

Those are just three examples of the many changes we made.

The public launch of the New Zoho CRM is not very far away. Meanwhile, you can start working on the new CRM, right now. We’re still fixing some details – so please let us know your feedback. Please take into account that you’ll be accessing your live DATA but with a different UI. Any changes that you make will be reflected on your “other” account – it’s just the same data, just looking at it through a different – and hopefully better – window.

Check out our new CRM today. Head over to


Stay tuned for more!

Maximize Your Productivity With Zoho Mail For Business

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As Business-Owners or Professionals, we’re constantly looking for ways to enhance our work productivity by accomplishing more in lesser time. A recent article at GigaOm, titled ‘15 Tips For Accomplishing More In Less Time‘ gives some advice on how this can be achieved. Many of the tips mentioned in the article talk about how email can affect your productivity. With the right features, of course, email can be transformed into a powerful Business tool that helps you maximize work productivity. This was also the main objective with which we recently launched Zoho Mail for Business, a powerful hosted email solution that includes several inbuilt productivity-oriented features.

Today, we’d like to highlight Zoho Mail’s Business features that go hand in hand with GigaOm’s productivity tips:

  1. To start with, Zoho Mail can help you stay focused on the important work with its integrated Tasks app. ​The Tasks app lets you add or assign tasks with options to include start/end times, not just dates and set reminders by pop-up or email. Task-tracking is made highly effective with features such as color-coding, status-tagging and a compact graphical report of the overall status of tasks. Here’s what one of our users, Angela had to say about the Tasks app..”I have been searching for a task management software and found some really expensive ones that are not nearly as effective a tool as the Zoho email task app. I love this system!

  2. Using Keyboard shortcuts for 35 commonly-used actions in Zoho Mail can save you quite a lot of time from not having to maneuver your mouse around, enabling you to check, read and respond to messages faster. You can even customize these shortcuts with your own keystroke definitions in the Mail Settings section.

  3. Unlike many other webmail interfaces, Zoho Mail supports multi-level folders and its Filters feature includes additional options such as ‘Begins with’, ‘Is not’, ‘Ends with’, etc. By being able to filter incoming messages and automatically organizing them into specific folders or sub-folders, you can spend more time focusing on critical stuff.

  4. More often than not, as you tend to respond to messages one at a time, the most important messages get lost in the Inbox pile, which builds up to an unmanageable scale. With Zoho Mail, you can take immediate action on every email by assigning flags and labels, moving them to archives or other folders with a simple drag & drop. By effectively utilizing the three types of flags, that is Info, Important and Follow-up, you can greatly simplify categorization of your messages.

  5. The Integrated Calendar app with shareable calendars helps to keep people together and up to date with important events, within teams or with customers. The app includes features such as the ability to check when people are free / busy while scheduling events, a smart add that automatically fills in available slots in your calendar with a single line input as well as email reminders for events. Together, these features help ensure that you can be in control of your calendar and stay organized while handling events.
  6. Ever been overwhelmed with situations where you had to interact with individuals from different teams or projects within a particular company? With Zoho Mail, you can now work in chunks and focus better by creating a main folder with the company name and sub-folders within this folder with the team names. Then, you can filter and organize incoming messages to these sub-folders and manage them more efficiently, one team at a time. Additionally, you can create email templates for different situations, common questions and insert relevant template chunks at compose time.

  7. When it comes to keeping it simple, Zoho Mail is equipped with features that simplify many otherwise complex tasks down to a click of a button. The best example of this is the ‘optional’ conversation view that unveils the history of a thread in a neat tree format, saving you the burden of manually searching for related messages. Also, the ‘Edit as new’ feature, that makes it easy to pick up and edit a previous email. Zoho Mail includes many such easy-to-use but powerful shortcuts for important actions.

So, those are 7 tips / features that make Zoho Mail an ideal choice for your Business communication needs. We hope you found these tips and features handy. If you haven’t already looked at Zoho Mail for your Business, now would be a good time to give it a try! To receive more updates and productivity tips, connect with Zoho Mail on Facebook and Twitter.

7 Reasons For Self-Employed Professionals To Choose Zoho Projects

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In a recent article titled ‘

Seven Keys To Productivity In The Human Cloud
‘, 

Business Insider
shared a set of productivity tips for independent consultants and freelancers; self-employed professionals who generally work from their home offices, collaborating with multiple clients and juggling multiple projects. According to the article, these tips should be used by professionals in leveraging the power of cloud-based tools for attracting and delivering better business. We offer one such cloud-based tool, Zoho Projects, which is ideal for this purpose especially since its features match all 7 criteria suggested by the article.

We’ll take Business Insider’s 7 criteria into account, to explain why Zoho Projects is the perfect choice as a tool for self-employed professionals:

#1 In accordance with tip 1, Zoho Projects is a 

Collaborative workspace which functions as a conference room where clients can easily review documents, mock-ups, share comments or check on project status
. Project members can

easily add and share project-related documents
, spreadsheets, videos, etc from within the Project. These documents appear in the document tab where they can then be reviewed by clients.

#2 Tip 2 suggests that you use ‘ an end-to-end project management solution that gives you integrated, seamless access to all aspects of your projects ‘ and that doesn’t require you to login separately to a document sharing program such as Google Docs. With Zoho projects, you get

inbuilt access
to task management, bug tracking, time tracking, project reports, meetings, project wiki and more. You can also upload documents directly from Zoho Docs or Google Docs. Read more about the Google Apps Integration that also lets you add users from Google Apps, add tasks and events in Google Calendar and view project information in Google Mail. 

#3 Tip 3 stresses the significance of staying organized by maintaining all communications, documents, tasks and milestones in a central place and of selecting a solution that supports email collaboration. Zoho Projects includes separate tabs for organizing and maintaining all your documents, tasks and milestones within your project portal. It also includes powerful email collaboration that lets you add new tasks, forums, documents, comments and status via email.

#4 Clients should be empowered to find answers to their questions and not have to rely on back-and-forth communication, says Tip 4. Zoho Projects makes all these answers easy to find with a comprehensive project dashboard that lets you view status of tasks at a glance, and keeps documents, milestones and conversations all in one central location making them easy to track. Another aspect of Zoho Projects that enables easy access to answers is the visual representation of project and task status in the Projects Reports feature. The inbuilt forums and Project Wiki also help in quickly accessing information or answers.

#5 Tip 5 talks about the importance of supporting a flexible work environment that makes it easy to invite people, control access limitations and track work-hours and expenses. Zoho Projects offers all of that flexibility; inviting users is easy, client access controls and project user access controls are seperately defined and timesheets allow project users to log their hours for tracking and billing.

#6 Invoicing, can be better aligned to purchase output if done directly from within the project workspace, says Tip 6. And of course, Zoho Projects comes with inbuilt timesheet and billing software that lets project users log and track time, record billable hours, generate customized billing reports, export timesheets and create invoices to bill your clients.

#7 Tip 7 explains why maintaining a consistent branded look with logo and colors, is important so that clients can be made to feel comfortable about your Project workspace presence. With Zoho Projects, a project team can create that consistent branded look by adding their own logo, customizing the layout, changing timezones and setting the language according to their preference.

So, if you’re a self-employed professional, you now have above 7 reasons to start using Zoho Projects. Here’s what one such professional, Raphe Patmore, experienced when he started using Zoho Projects:


My client had never used Zoho before. Once I’d set up the whole project on Zoho I shared it with him. His response after visiting Zoho was, “I knew straight away this was going to be a well managed project”

Read what some of our other customers said about Zoho Projects or share your own experience with us by writing in to support at zohoprojects dot com. If you liked this post, please share it with those who you think will find it useful.

How To Clean Up Your Business – With Zoho

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Entrepreneur.com recently featured an article titled ‘How To Clean Up Your Business‘. The article talks about Spring Cleaning, a time to ‘get rid of the tasks, people and situations that drain time, money and energy from your Business’. Every Business encounters its share of such tasks, people and situations that it must successfully overcome in order to increase and optimize productivity.

I’d like to share some ‘Productivity Pitfalls’ quoted from the original articleAt Zoho, we offer several applications which can help eliminate 7 out of these 8 Pitfalls. These Zoho Apps can be used together, in conjunction with one another, to achieve the purpose of maximizing productivity while saving you time, money and energy.

Productivity Pitfall #1 Scattered day plans

 “Failure to plan their days is the No. 1 reason business owners waste time, energy and money, says New York City-based time-management expert Julie Morgenstern By not planning their days, they tend to become reactive and distracted, diminishing their productivity and the revenue they can generate.”

Our SolutionZoho Mail for Business comes with Calendar, Tasks and Notes apps integrated for improved productivity and efficiency. With Zoho Mail, Business-Owners can plan and organize their days better. The Calendar app within Zoho Mail helps easily schedule, manage and track important events and meetings from within the email interface. The Tasks app lets you assign, plan and track important tasks, ensuring that you never miss any task-related deadlines. The Notes app lets you add quick, color-coded notes to gather all useful information in one place, so you can later refer to it, edit or import it. Zoho Mail also supports multi-level folders that make it easier for Business-Owners to track, organize and prioritize incoming email thereby saving time and energy. Read the complete list of powerful features offered by Zoho Mail for Business.

Productivity Pitfall #2 DIY syndrome 

Morgenstern estimates that 75 to 80 percent of the small and midsize businesses she consults with waste employee salaries, including their own, by not focusing each person’s time on the optimal task for that person.”

Our SolutionZoho Creator helps many Business-Owners build custom apps for their Busi
ness requirements. Instead of hiring a developer who may or may not understand their exact requirements, Business-Owners can easily build their own custom app all by themselves, using the Zoho Creator platform. Building their own apps saves these Businesses considerable time and money that may have otherwise been wasted hiring unnecesary developer resources Also, using Zoho Creator ensures that there is no compromise on the quality of the applications built.

One such Zoho Creator customer, Wayne “Kila” Watts, Chief Pilot at  PilotSpeak.net reports:

“It was a godsend for the applications I needed for my website, saving me thousands of dollars to have someone else make the databases and design the pages.”

Read experiences of other Business-Owners who have saved time and money by building their own apps with Zoho Creator.

Productivity Pitfall #3 Disorganized direction  

To make the delegation process more effective and less time-consuming, Bakersfield, Calif.-based business growth consultant Russell S. Allred, co-author of Best Practices of High Performance Entrepreneurs, recommends creating task-related systems and processes. Write a list of steps for each task you perform regularly in your workplace and the best practices for completing those steps.

Our SolutionZoho Wiki helps create a secure, collaborative environment for Businesses to document and share such task-related systems and processes online over their Intranet. Wikis serve as a knowledge-base where employees can maintain and update information and steps related to these tasks.

Stu Press, CEO of Grand Assistance, is the owner of one such Business and has successfully achieved this purpose using Zoho Wiki. Here’s what he had to say about our Wiki solution:

“Zoho Wiki has been a valuable communication tool that we were able to integrate into our business. We have been able to eliminate printed procedure manuals and employee handbooks resulting in a more nimble and environmentally friendly process for keeping our all of organization’s people in alignment with our goals. We enjoy being able to quickly implement modifications and updates to our Wiki.”

Learn more about Zoho Wiki features that can help you create process-oriented knowledge-bases for your Business.

Productivity Pitfall #4Untamed distractions

“Many people have no idea how to manage the overwhelming amount of communication that comes their way on paper and electronically, says productivity consultant Kimberly Medlock, founder of Productive Matters in Olive Branch, Miss. To cut down on distractions and time-sucks, clean up your act, she says. Develop hard-copy and electronic filing systems to help locate important papers and information more quickly.”

Our SolutionZoho Docs can serve as the electronic filing system helping your Business store, manage and collaboratively work on documents online. Not only does Zoho Docs allow secure file sharing via an online workspace, it also includes an admin console so that user rights and access to files can easily be controlled. Read more about these features available on Zoho Docs.

Productivity Pitfall #5Leaky expenditures 

>By checking his monthly expenses closely, Eli Mechlovitz, co-founder of GlassTileStore.com, an online glass tile retailer, found a variety of unwanted subscriptions, warranty programs, fee-based website analytics programs, utility bill errors and other incorrect or unwanted charges. Eliminating these budgetary leaks has saved his Brooklyn, N.Y., company approximately $4,000 per month.  Every quarter, be sure to review where the money is going, he advises, and discontinue or fight unnecessary or incorrect charges.

Our SolutionZoho Books is a comprehensive accounting solution that helps Business-Owners manage their finances and stay on top of their Business. With Zoho Books, you can keep your Business expenses in check and manage the money flowing in and out of your Business. Learn more about how Zoho Books can help your business stay financially healthy.

Productivity Pitfall #6:  Collecting (all) customers

Maria Marsala, a business coach in Poulsbo, Wash., finds that many of her clients waste time and energy serving the wrong customers. She encourages them to define their “ideal” customer–the person or entity that will pay a fair price for their product or service, value their business, return and buy from them again and generate referrals. The greatest marketing investment and effort should be devoted to finding and courting those ideals, she says.

Our Solution: Zoho CRM can help your Business build, maintain and strengthen customer relationships. With Zoho CRM, you can organize your customer database so that you can identify and tag the right customers, prioritize and track business opportunities and plan focused marketing activity. Read about some of the Business-Owners who have benefited from adopting Zoho CRM for their Business.

Productivity Piftall #7: Energy-sucking employees

 When Mechlovitz has trouble with unproductive or negative employees, he tries to move them into positions that better suit their skills. But if an employee isn’t a good fit or is miserable, he says, you have to end the relationship–quickly. 

Productivity Pitfall #8: Persistent procrastination

 If you constantly avoid tasks or put off work until the last minute, you need to figure out why, Morgenstern says. Burnout could be from being overworked, but she often finds that procrastination is rooted in uncertainty or intimidation. If a project seems too big, procrastination can be a coping mechanism. She suggests breaking the task down into manageable steps you can do in shorter chunks of time.

Our Solution Zoho Projects is helping many Businesses effectively manage their Business Projects online. With features such as task-management, time-tracking, project calendar, chat and meetings, Zoho Projects can help you plan and optimize the time spent on tasks. 

Business-Owners can use Zoho Projects with their teams ensuring that team members collaboratively manage their tasks within optimal time. Tasks can be easily broken down into manageable chunks and completed over a defined, measurable period of time. Not only that, Business-Owners can also save and plan their own time that they would otherwise spend micro-managing different tasks across multiple projects within their Business. Read about some of these Businesses and how they have benefited from Zoho Projects.

So, that’s the complete list of Productivity Pitfalls and how they can be avoided by using the right Zoho Apps. Thanks to Gwen Moran of Entrepreneur.com for the original article that inspired this post. Besides this list, are there any other Productivity Pitfalls that affect your Business? Tell us about them, and we can help you figure out the best ways to tackle them.

If you liked this post, drop us a comment here or give us a shout on twitter. We’d love to hear from you!