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Canned Responses: Which Emails Should You Standardize?

Canned Responses: Which Emails Should You Standardize?

    I’ve got a whole stack of standard responses that I cut and paste into emails. There are certain requests for information, for instance, that I get on a pretty regular basis. I don’t really have an interest in retyping the same message over and over again, so I have saved my commonly used emails and just cut and paste. Gmail made that whole process much easier this week with the new Canned Response feature available from Google Labs. I have it turned on and I’ve been converting all my saved messages into canned responses. It’s given me an opportunity to take a look at the messages I routinely use, and I figured I’d share them with you.

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    My Standard Emails

    1. Availability — Whenever someone wants to meet, whether in person, over the phone or online, I find it easiest to just paste in my normal availability and best times for meetings. I do tweak the email after I get my normal availability listed; after all, I might have a non-reoccuring appointment to take into consideration. But, for many of us, a general email about what time of day we are free isn’t going to vary much from week to week.
    2. Forms — I have a couple of reports that I have to send out once a week. I’ve created basic text forms, where I just add the current week’s information. I do something similar with my invoices, but I have to be very careful about making sure that my books and emails match up.
    3. Nagging Emails — There are a whole set of emails that I really hate having to send and I’ve lumped them all into my ‘nagging’ emails pile. I’ve got form emails for reminding clients that payments are late, that someone has violated my copyright and all the other letters that ten years ago I would have just Xeroxed and stuffed in an envelope.
    4. Cover Letters — As a freelancer, I’m pretty much always looking for work. I know a couple of full-time employees who are also on a perpetual hunt, too. We all make a habit of looking for work that will fit us and responding with a cover letter, a resume and some samples. It’s exceedingly rare that I’ll write a cover letter from scratch. I’m pretty confident in my cover letter; it’s already landed me plenty of work. There are some jobs that I don’t do more than change the name at the top before sending out my email.
    5. Websites — I belong to a couple of websites that I routinely receive email from that I have to respond to. One, for instance, is a site that allows me to trade books. I have to email other members to exchange shipping information on a regular basis. This category of emails is one reason I’m particularly excited about Canned Responses: I want to set up filters to handle responding to such emails automatically without my having to do anything except go to the post office. Craigslist is the sort of site that a canned response is especially ideal for.
    6. Projects — When I’m starting a new project, there’s a few general question I like to start with so that everyone involved has a similar idea of what we’re working on. While those questions don’t generally make up a complete email starting a project, I like being able to drop them in easily. I have a few other bits and pieces of text that are useful on emails for a lot of different projects, such as requests for certain types of information necessary to proceed.

    The Key is Customization

    I have plenty of other standard emails. But I don’t want you to get the idea that I only send out form emails — that I never put thought into the messages I send out. With only a few exceptions, it’s pretty rare that I send out one of my standard responses without adding, tweaking or generally changing it up. My standard responses are more templates than form letters, in most cases.

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    I started using templates as a way to cut down the amount of time I spent staring at my email inbox. If I have at least a starting point for the most common emails I receive, I can pound out the full email in short order. I can answer a full day’s worth of email in half the time that it would take if I started from scratch on each one. Lately, it seems like it takes more time for me to copy and paste a response than it does for me to tweak that message for its recipient.

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    If I think I’ve had to answer the same question twice, I generally save my response. I’ve got a pretty healthy file now — even though some of my responses aren’t actually useful on a very regular basis. But I’ve found that, as my stack of standard emails has grown, I’ve got some sort of template response for 90 percent of the email I get.

    Canned Response will make those template easier to manage, I think: I’ve used simple text files, TextExpander and even drafts in my Gmail account to try to manage my standard responses. While all of those options are okay, none of them are great — they weren’t really created with such a task in mind. But Canned Response really is made with this approach to email in mind. Those other methods will continue to work, however, if you aren’t interested in using Gmail.

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    Last Updated on December 3, 2019

    10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

    10 Life Lessons You’d Better Learn Early on in Life

    There are so many lessons I wish I had learned while I was young enough to appreciate and apply them. The thing with wisdom, and often with life lessons in general, is that they’re learned in retrospect, long after we needed them. The good news is that other people can benefit from our experiences and the lessons we’ve learned.

    Here’re 10 important life lessons you should learn early on:

    1. Money Will Never Solve Your Real Problems

    Money is a tool; a commodity that buys you necessities and some nice “wants,” but it is not the panacea to your problems.

    There are a great many people who are living on very little, yet have wonderfully full and happy lives… and there are sadly a great many people are living on quite a lot, yet have terribly miserable lives.

    Money can buy a nice home, a great car, fabulous shoes, even a bit of security and some creature comforts, but it cannot fix a broken relationship, or cure loneliness, and the “happiness” it brings is only fleeting and not the kind that really and truly matters. Happiness is not for sale. If you’re expecting the “stuff” you can buy to “make it better,” you will never be happy.

    2. Pace Yourself

    Often when we’re young, just beginning our adult journey we feel as though we have to do everything at once. We need to decide everything, plan out our lives, experience everything, get to the top, find true love, figure out our life’s purpose, and do it all at the same time.

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    Slow down—don’t rush into things. Let your life unfold. Wait a bit to see where it takes you, and take time to weigh your options. Enjoy every bite of food, take time to look around you, let the other person finish their side of the conversation. Allow yourself time to think, to mull a bit.

    Taking action is critical. Working towards your goals and making plans for the future is commendable and often very useful, but rushing full-speed ahead towards anything is a one-way ticket to burnout and a good way to miss your life as it passes you by.

    3. You Can’t Please Everyone

    “I don’t know the secret to success, but the secret to failure is trying to please everyone” – Bill Cosby.

    You don’t need everyone to agree with you or even like you. It’s human nature to want to belong, to be liked, respected and valued, but not at the expense of your integrity and happiness. Other people cannot give you the validation you seek. That has to come from inside.

    Speak up, stick to your guns, assert yourself when you need to, demand respect, stay true to your values.

    4. Your Health Is Your Most Valuable Asset

    Health is an invaluable treasure—always appreciate, nurture, and protect it. Good health is often wasted on the young before they have a chance to appreciate it for what it’s worth.

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    We tend to take our good health for granted, because it’s just there. We don’t have to worry about it, so we don’t really pay attention to it… until we have to.

    Heart disease, bone density, stroke, many cancers—the list of many largely preventable diseases is long, so take care of your health now, or you’ll regret it later on.

    5. You Don’t Always Get What You Want

    “Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

    No matter how carefully you plan and how hard you work, sometimes things just don’t work out the way you want them to… and that’s okay.

    We have all of these expectations; predetermined visions of what our “ideal” life will look like, but all too often, that’s not the reality of the life we end up with. Sometimes our dreams fail and sometimes we just change our minds mid-course. Sometimes we have to flop to find the right course and sometimes we just have to try a few things before we find the right direction.

    6. It’s Not All About You

    You are not the epicenter of the universe. It’s very difficult to view the world from a perspective outside of your own, since we are always so focused on what’s happening in our own lives. What do I have to do today? What will this mean for me, for my career, for my life? What do I want?

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    It’s normal to be intensely aware of everything that’s going on in your own life, but you need to pay as much attention to what’s happening around you, and how things affect other people in the world as you do to your own life. It helps to keep things in perspective.

    7. There’s No Shame in Not Knowing

    No one has it all figured out. Nobody has all the answers. There’s no shame in saying “I don’t know.” Pretending to be perfect doesn’t make you perfect. It just makes you neurotic to keep up the pretense of manufactured perfection.

    We have this idea that there is some kind of stigma or shame in admitting our limitations or uncertainly, but we can’t possibly know everything. We all make mistakes and mess up occasionally. We learn as we go, that’s life.

    Besides—nobody likes a know-it-all. A little vulnerability makes you human and oh so much more relatable.

    8. Love Is More Than a Feeling; It’s a Choice

    That burst of initial exhilaration, pulse quickening love and passion does not last long. But that doesn’t mean long-lasting love is not possible.

    Love is not just a feeling; it’s a choice that you make every day. We have to choose to let annoyances pass, to forgive, to be kind, to respect, to support, to be faithful.

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    Relationships take work. Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s incredibly hard. It is up to us to choose how we want to act, think and speak in a relationship.

    9. Perspective Is a Beautiful Thing

    Typically, when we’re worried or upset, it’s because we’ve lost perspective. Everything that is happening in our lives seems so big, so important, so do or die, but in the grand picture, this single hiccup often means next to nothing.

    The fight we’re having, the job we didn’t get, the real or imagined slight, the unexpected need to shift course, the thing we wanted, but didn’t get. Most of it won’t matter 20, 30, 40 years from now. It’s hard to see long term when all you know is short term, but unless it’s life-threatening, let it go, and move on.

    10. Don’t Take Anything for Granted

    We often don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone: that includes your health, your family and friends, your job, the money you have or think you will have tomorrow.

    When you’re young, it seems that your parents will always be there, but they won’t. You think you have plenty of time to get back in touch with your old friends or spend time with new ones, but you don’t. You have the money to spend, or you think you’ll have it next month, but you might not.

    Nothing in your life is not guaranteed to be there tomorrow, including those you love.

    This is a hard life lesson to learn, but it may be the most important of all: Life can change in an instant. Make sure you appreciate what you have, while you still have it.

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    Featured photo credit: Ben Eaton via unsplash.com

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