One of the fun parts about working for a company that makes knowledge activation tools like TextExpander is finding new uses for our own products. You don’t realize how often you type the same stuff over and over until you pay attention to it. We spent a couple of weeks looking at our daily email activity to see where TextExpander could save us time by sending annoying email and message replies. The results were pretty surprising!
When tasks become bothersome, we can shorten our responses and change the tone. We can then carry that tone into the reply whether or not we mean to. The person on the other end of the email doesn’t know that it’s the 43rd time today that you’ve said “sorry, I’m unable to attend…” The only thing that they know is that you sound annoyed and they don’t understand why.
Productivity is about more than getting things done. It’s also about building and maintaining relationships so that you have someone you can work with in the future. With that in mind, let’s talk about how to reply to those frustrating emails and messages quickly so that you can maintain relationships and be more productive.
Daily Work Emails
The problem with the influx of daily work emails is that every time we break from the task at hand to answer one, it can take up to fifteen minutes to get back on track. In a professional environment, there are many messages that are valuable, even if they’re short. These are perfect times to use a snippet.
Depending on your office and the culture that exists, you might have lots of responses that you type out frequently. One email we see often, especially when we are corresponding with people outside of our own office, is “confirming receipt.” The recipient knows we don’t need any deep, well-thought response, but it’s nice to know that they’ve seen our email. They send a quick reply to let us know that they’ve seen it and then get back to their day.
The obvious problem here is that sending this type of response to every email that needs it can become a burden. When it happens enough times throughout a day, that burden can turn into an annoyance. So turn “confirming receipt” (or whatever your version of that language might be) into a snippet. Now you can tap a few keys and get back to work even faster.
If you want to take your productivity to new heights, delay that confirmation message until a specific time and then handle a few at once. You’re already breaking from another task, so it’s better to clear your inbox of a few messages rather than a single one. Head over to your email, choose every message that needs a “confirming receipt” reply and then handle them all at one time.
On the other end of this equation is that message that so many of us use in an email subject: “No reply necessary.” First off, make sure that you’re using this one appropriately. You don’t want to appear as if you’re not open to replies. With that said, my ;nrn snippet gets used so many times in an average week that I have stopped even bothering to look at the stats.
Email often gets used as a paper trail, of sorts. It’s important that the messages happen, but I want to make sure that I’m respectful of the recipient’s time. So I shoot them a message where I tag it with “no reply necessary” when it’s appropriate to do so. It saves my recipient time, and I let them know that the onus is on me for the next action.
While these don’t fall under the “frustrating emails” banner, we’d be remiss to not mention daily reports. Use snippets for daily reports that you can’t automate. If every report has the same blocks of text, turn those into a snippet so that you can work through them faster.
Reporting is a perfect time to use some of the advanced features in TextExpander. Fill-in Fields, Dates and Times, and the Clipboard function are some of my personal favorites. Our Learning Center has seemingly endless tips that you’ll want to discover.
Meeting scheduling is another area where snippets are endlessly handy. We often see “thank you for the invitation” in our replies, or “I’m sorry, but I’m unable to attend.” Turning these into snippets can save you loads of time. The back and forth of meeting scheduling can make it a real headache, so we also like having a snippet for “here are a few times that work for me” followed by a Calendly link or other scheduling tool.
Asking for (or Giving) Clarity
If there is one place where snippets are especially valuable in avoiding annoyances, it’s here. When needing help, people are pretty bad at explaining the problem. Often times, this means that the first reply is one that asks for clarity or restates their problem and then asks if the restatement is correct.
Another common use that we’ve seen is when you get emails or other messages that ask you for answers that don’t fall under your purview. Again, the goal here is to avoid sounding annoyed and to maintain relationships. So it’s best to have some snippets ready for when those messages inevitably come in at the wrong time.
Here are some snippets that we’ve found to be especially useful:
- “I’d love to help but I need a few details first.”
- “I want to make sure I’m understanding the problem…”
- “This is a situation that [name or department] could better solve for you.”
We’re certain that you’ll find some of your own. The challenge that we’d give you is the same one we gave ourselves. Spend a week really paying attention to the emails and messages that you send. At the end of the week, see if there are messages you can turn into snippets. Remember that you can even create snippets that have fill-in sections. You’ll not only be more productive, chances are that you’ll have friendlier, better-written responses as well.
From Professional to Personal
There are many snippets that you’ll find that straddle the fence between professional and personal. Staying polite in the face of repetitiveg emails and messages is an art, but a little extra help goes a long way. For instance, if you’ve ever sold something on Craigslist, how many times did you have to type “yes, it’s still available” in reply to an email? Facebook Marketplace is another platform where repeated messages can get tiresome, but staying polite can help you buy for less or sell for more.
Another area where we’ve seen significant overlap is vendor quotes. Whether you’re looking at a new work vendor or someone to install solar panels on your house, you’re about to reply to a lot of emails. We’re pretty sure that there are entire keyboards that have gone into the graveyard due to “thank you for your quote” messages. Even if you’re only replying to the quotes that are interesting or within your budget, chances are good that you still have your work cut out for you. Maintaining a sense of decorum can go a long way in helping a business deal to go well. The less annoyed you are by these repeated emails, the better your chances at closing a solid transaction.
This isn’t only the last section of our post, it’s also another area where we see lots of the same phrases used. While we can strive for something as poetic as Shakespeare’s “parting is such sweet sorrow,” the reality is…less so.
- “Thanks for your help!”
- “Until next time!”
It’s so common these days for emails to take on a conversational tone that often the last message or two is nothing more than a goodbye. So instead of typing the same thing over and over, consider loading a few into snippets. You’ll not only break up the monotony, you can save yourself some time as well.
We’re certain that we’ve missed some emails or messages that can get annoying. What are the ones that you find yourself sending far too often? Create a snippet for them first, and then let us know about them. Maybe someone else has the same problem!