Tuesday, November 1, 2011

6 Ways Gmail Can Help Stage Managers

I'm going to write this post write now, while the excitement of the discovery is still fresh.  Recently, Gmail went to a new format and added some new features, and overall, I am really loving the changes and improvements.  This post is about my new discovery and about how Gmail has honestly saved my ass over my years as a stage manager.

I would also like to note that I am certain some other email clients have similar/identical features and that the features I talk about aren't just helpful for stage managers.

1. Labels
This is a feature I know that pretty much every email client has, since I have used them in different email clients. However, there are many things about the way that Gmail does theirs that really helps me in particular.

You can color labels.  The color will show up in the inbox listing and thus you can glance through your email and recognize the subject of the message without even having to read.

You can hide labels if there are no-unread messages within the label.  This is extremely useful if you are working multiple shows or projects at once and thus have a lot of labels in use currently.

2. Filters
Okay, now, no doubt, you're saying, "But that doesn't sound that special."  What makes labels so powerful is when they are used in conjunction with filters.  Most stage managers (and indeed any production staff I know) tag their subject lines with the name of the show every single time.  Using filters, you can say: Subject has words: SHOW NAME, please label all messages with this label.  This is another ease-of-reading type of feature.  This way you don't even manually have to label your messages.

Filters are also handy because you can send those pesky emails from companies (Barnes and Noble, Kohls, etc) straight to the archives, that way you can still have them if you want to look at deals, but you don't have to.

3. Undo Send
This used to be a Gmail Lab, but I believe Google now has officially adopted it.  It allows you to "unsend" an email after it was sent.  Say you realize you made a horrible spelling error, left someone off of the email list, or sent an email that you instantly regretted.  In all these situations, as long as you realize fairly quickly, then you can unsend the email temporarily so you can fix your mistakes.

4. Attachment Reminder
This is another Lab which has saved me many times.  I know so many stage managers who send out their rehearsal report...without the rehearsal report attached.  This was never the biggest problem for me, but I know some that do it nearly every time.  This lab means that if you use the word "attach" in the email and then send it without an attachment, it will check in with you and make sure you're meaning to send it without an attachment.  It means I sometimes sound a little stilted by saying: "the rehearsal report is attached" every time, but it makes sure I don't make any mistakes.

5. Priority Inbox
This is a feature where Gmail sections out the "important" emails and puts them at the top in a separate section (it learns which are important from how quickly you open the message, how frequently, if you mark a similar message as important, etc).

I have talked to a few stage managers who can't stand it, but for me, if all my important emails float to the top, it really does ensure I will read them faster.  It does occasionally get strange ideas about what's important, but you can always unmark a message as important and Gmail will learn from that.

6. Sectioned Inbox
If you are using priority inbox and have opted to use the new Gmail interface early, then this is something you can use.  By going to Email Settings > Inbox you can add your labels straight into you inbox.  This means that is will take all of West Side Story emails and group them into one place in your inbox.  You can filter how many you would like to have shown in that section, I choose about 10.  I can click over to the label section extremely easily, but this helps me keep an easy reminder of the recent emails that I've been sent for a particular show.


Now, there are so many features that I use in my email to help me out in my day to day work such as the starred feature, but these are the trickier, less known about ones.  I have suggested to some stage managers that they use them and in general they have been extremely grateful for the knowledge.  I do think that Gmail is probably the best email client in existence currently, but I also do realize that some people do have work emails and such, so I did try not to disparage other clients too much.

As a footnote, I would like to add that Google Calendars and Google Documents can also be extremely helpful to a stage manager. This blog post brought to you by Google.

Boyfriend pointed this out to me, but the Attachment Reminder, isn't a lab anymore either.  It's something that Gmail just does not.  Gmail: taking good ideas and claiming them as their own.

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