But my inbox was still a huge time-suck. And the kicker is: I was sending a lot of the same emails over and over again.
That’s when I started using canned responses. If you’re not familiar with them, you can save a response you craft and then, instead of constantly retyping it, you can click and insert it into your email, saving you time and effort.
Not sold yet? I’ve written five common, time-saving templates to get you started that’ll convince you this makes sense. (But first, you need to get set-up. If you’re a Gmail user, you’ll find instructions here. And if you’re an Outlook user, they’re called “Quick Parts,” and you can see them here.)
1. To Put Off Answering
Sometimes, you can fire off a quick reply. But other times, your response will require extra thought or legwork. Since you don’t want to ignore the person in the meantime, send this to let them know you’ll reply when you can. It looks like this:
Thanks so much for your question about [topic].
I just wanted to let you know that I’m looking into it and will get back to you before the end of week with an answer.
If you need me to get back to you sooner, please let me know!
2. To Defuse a Situation
You know that one of the very worst things you can do when tensions are running high is tell someone how you feel over email. Instead of risking it when emotions are strong, use a pre-created template to be sure you’re using a workplace appropriate tone. It looks like this:
Thank you for your honesty and constructive feedback. I understand where you’re coming from, and think it would be helpful to discuss further.
Do you have time to add a call or cup of coffee to your schedule this week? I think it would be helpful for us to talk about next steps, and how we might avoid similar miscommunication in the future.
3. To Share Instructions
Are you constantly telling people how to navigate your website or use your database? Instead of retyping the instructions time and again, Type it once and you won’t have to worry about missing steps when you get stressed or super busy (or replicating work all week long). It looks like this:
Thanks for reaching out with questions about [procedure]!
We prefer to use [program], and I’ve outlined the process for [project] below:
[Insert numbered list]
If you have any questions along the way, don’t hesitate to reach out.
4. To Punt Low-Priority Work
Got too much on your plate? Keep your email concise and honest, while offering alternatives. Try this:
Thanks for thinking of me for this project. Unfortunately, my schedule is jam-packed this week.
I do have a co-worker who has helped out with similar tasks in the past. I’d be happy to reach out to her and see if she has time to work on this.
How this sound?
5. To Send an Attachment
“Please find attached …” has to be one of the most common email replies, which makes it a perfect candidate for a canned response template. (Just be sure to actually attach the file before you click “Send!”). Try this:
I hope you’re having a good day.
Here’s that document I promised you. Please find it attached below.
If you have any questions, please let me know and I’d be happy to answer your questions.
Saving email responses will help you manage your inbox—and your time. This way, you can write them when you’re feeling level-headed and thinking clearly, and have them handy for that stressful, time-crunched day.
Finally, don’t forget that just because they’re saved doesn’t mean they’re set in stone. Feel free to change them if you need to, so they’ll truly work for you moving forward.
Photo of person on laptop courtesy of JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images.