THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – E-mail – Automate Repetitive Replies – Lesson 7

Your time is precious and this series of lessons is about minimising wasted time so you can spend it doing higher value activities.  Therefore, I bet you anything that there are messages in your sent items box that look remarkably similar.  You are the centre of many people’s universe and they all want to pick your brains, so I’m betting you have answered the same question from multiple people many times!  Right?  Well, now’s the time to tackle that problem once and for all … This week we look at:

Empty your in box – everything should have its own place, and the inbox is not it!

Decreasing  your response time – The One Minute Rule

Crafting effective messages

Highlight Messages sent directly to you

Using disposable e-mail addresses

Consolidate multiple e-mail addresses

  • Script and automate repetitive replies
  • Filter low priority messages

Build a set of scripted e-mail responses that you can drop into e-mails quickly. You will probably be familiar with out of office replies – which are set up via rules – but this is just one step removed from that, standard replies you can drop in wherever and whenever you need.  Personalise them if necessary and then you can reply speedily without spending valuable time composing the same information over and over again.  You maintain the control over the use and reduce your time in doing so all in one sweep.  Here’s some links to finding out how ……

This is also useful if you are one of the lucky few to have the resource of a P.A at your disposal.  A little effort from you in scripting the standard replies will make his or her life much easier too.  So go on, see this as a random act of kindness either to yourself or to your P.A and make someone smile for the right reasons.

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THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – E-mail – Consolidate multiple addresses – Lesson 6

You would be pretty unusual if you operated on the basis of owning just one e-mail address.  Therefore, an element of these lessons must address the real benefits of consolidating multiple addresses into one e-mail  in-box.  This week we look at:

This week we look at:

Empty your in box – everything should have its own place, and the inbox is not it!

Decreasing  your response time – The One Minute Rule

Crafting effective messages

Highlight Messages sent directly to you

Using disposable e-mail addresses

  • Consolidating multiple e-mail addresses
  • Script and automate repetitive replies
  • Filter low priority messages

If you are a Mac user, then this is very simple indeed, in Mail, select the option to “add e-mail account” at bottom left of folder column and insert the relevant passwords and hey presto, you collect more than one set of e-mails conveniently in one place.

The benefit of this is that you can easily see a partition because, by now, you are using different addresses for different purposes aren’t you?  Then you don’t have to tell all your contacts of any change of e-mail address if you don’t want to, and  you don’t miss a single message. It’s great segmentation!  Personally I have this set up for two accounts – my company one and my personal one, which instantly tells me what sort of message I’m dealing with.

Many folk also use G-mail and for this sort of mail client, there are two ways of achieving this:

  • either use Gmail’s “fetcher” feature; or
  • forward your other addresses’ mail to Gmail automatically.

If you wish to utilise the Gmail fetcher facility (and you can do this for up to 5 accounts in Gmail), here’s how to do it:

  • your old e-mail must offer POP (post office protocol) and most nowadays do;
  • from the top of the page within Gmail, click settings;
  • click accounts and imports;
  • in the “check mail using POP3 section, click add POP3 e-mail account;
  • enter the full e-mail address of the account you want to access, and click Next Step;
  • Gmail fills in the username, POP servier, and port fields when possible, based o the e-mail address, then enter your password.

I hope week 6 is useful to you if you are one of the millions of  multiple e-mail users.  These latter lessons are fairly pick-and-mix if you have been disciplined enough to make the first 4 routine by now 🙂

Infographics

I love infographics, and I thought I’d share this recent find of mine, just for fun.

Are your favourites on there? All mine are in red 🙂

Do you have a favourite infographic you’d care to share here?

20120819-224511.jpg

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – E-Mail – Use disposable addresses to reduce junk & spam – Lesson 5

How’s it all  hanging together so far then?  This week is easy peasy and designed to reduce the amount of junk and spam (and therefore the time it takes to deal with it).  Probably  more attuned to your personal e-mail than a work one, particularly if you have aggressive spam filters in any case (but not exclusively).  But an easy week is always worth fitting in, particularly as you are now handling 4 lessons simultaneously in any case.  So, we now turn to:

Empty your in box – everything should have its own place, and the inbox is not it!

Decreasing  your response time – The One Minute Rule

Crafting effective messages

Highlight Messages sent directly to you

  • Using disposable e-mail addresses
  • Master message search
  • Future-proof your e-mail address
  • Consolidate multiple e-mail addresses
  • Script and automate repetitive replies
  • Filter low priority messages

Never heard of disposable mail addresses before?  You are in for a treat!  Mailinator.com is one such service (but there are others too).  What makes these different from gmail or yahoo is that you can only receive mail into them, you can’t send anything from them.  Here’s a link to Mailinator FAQs to find out more.  Make sure nothing too personal ends up in there and it will fast become the big black hole you’ve been needing for quarantining all that junk mail and spam!!

Most registration websites require that you use a legitimate mail address and its usual that you have to retrieve an activation message from that mail account to proceed.  This is where disposable mail addresses really come into their own, particularly if you use them for the sole purpose of registering on different sites and never intend to use them to handle any other sort of information thereafter. Registering on sites is the most frequently targeted mechanism for future junk and spam mail.  Some companies sell the registration details, others are merely trawled for that data.  In any case, that’s the foundation of much of the junk cluttering up your in box right now!  So adopt a barrier nursing approach to it and create a physical barrier between it and your much more interesting mail.  It will be soooo worth it 🙂

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – E-Mail – Highlight Messages Sent Directly To You – Lesson 4

So last week was a toughie wasn’t it?  How are you coping with putting 3 lessons together so far?  Try to keep up with these lessons and definitely keep persevering as it really is very well worth it.

This week, we turn to:

Empty your in box – everything should have its own place, and the inbox is not it!

Decreasing  your response time – The One Minute Rule

Crafting effective messages

  • Highlight Messages sent directly to you
  • Use disposable e-mail addresses
  • Master message search
  • Future-proof your e-mail address
  • Consolidate multiple e-mail addresses
  • Script and automate repetitive replies
  • Filter low priority messages

So “how do you filter and highlight messages sent directly to you?”

This is both easy and lesson 4 is still totally free.  What more could you ask for?

We get CC’d into a whole host of things and when you are pressed for time, those messages are perfect candidates for parking and reading later.  So those messages sent direct to you, and you alone are clearly more important than the rest of the world stuff right?  They are more likely to have been sent because they directly relate to your area of responsibility; they are more likely to require action/response; and if you don’t reply then nobody else can!  Here follows two fantastic filter methods to set this up:

Outlook 2010:

1. Click view/view settings/condiational formatting

2. Click add/name it Messages to Me/condition

3. tick check box next to “where am I” and select The Only Person on the To Line from the drop down menu/then ok

4. click Font button set Outlook to highlight e-mails sent only to you using whatever formatting you prefer

Tra-la!  Now only messages sent to you will be a different colour than all the others.  During your e-mail processing periods you’ll do well to deal with these ones first.  Of course you can use the same method to filter messages sent from people as well as to you so if you have key stakeholders you want to respond more promptly to, use a different colour for them.

Other e-mail programmes:

Most other mail programmes have similar rules you can set up and apply:

  • G-mail can indicate messages sent only to your address with the right angle quotation mark >> which points to the message subject
  • mac accounts use a similar colour coding system so check it out if you are a mac user fast.

HOMEWORK

Set up one rule (more if you want but at least one rule) by the end of this weekend and see the instant difference it makes to your sorting and sifting time!!!

 

 

THURSDAY THOUGHTS! – E-Mail – How to craft effective messages – Lesson 3

Week 3 is a big week in our “How do you control your e-mail” series.  So far so good, everything is working for those taking part.  We’ve done the housekeeping and now the personal behaviour change needs to kick in, so here goes …..

This week, we turn to:

Empty your in box – everything should have its own place, and the inbox is not it!

Decreasing  your response time – The One Minute Rule

  • Crafting effective messages
  • Highlight Messages sent directly to you
  • Use disposable e-mail addresses
  • Master message search
  • Future-proof your e-mail address
  • Consolidate multiple e-mail addresses
  • Script and automate repetitive replies
  • Filter low priority messages

This week we look at clarity, and its true to say that the clearer your e-mail messages are, the more likely it is that you will get the result you want, and more quickly too.  Making things easy to read and understand is a simple exam technique.  We’ve all been there.  The easier it is for the marker to find what they are after, the easier it is for them to give you the marks you crave.  So, its easy to illustrate the opposite, ie what an INEFFECTIVE, e-mail message looks like.  We’ve all had them and groaned.  They usually don’t illustrate what the senders expectations are, they hide the most important information, and the body of the message is far too long and difficult to read.  Sound familiar?

I have a habit of opening long e-mails, reading the first 2 and last 2 sentences and if I have no idea what its about – it goes to the bottom of my list immediately.  I don’t let the sender transfer their muddled thoughts to become my instant problem.

Here’s a simple 10-step strategy to help you craft effective messages :

1. Purpose – every single mail should have a specific purpose.  Either to convey information or requesting action.  So know what you expect to get out of it.  If you are the sort who needs to flesh out your thinking by writing, then send the e-mail to yourself!  If you don’t have a clear purpose, don’t write it and definitely don’t send it!

2. Subject Line – This is a critical element.  Its the first thing the recipient sees.  It needs to have impact and grip. The use of prefixes help.  If you require action capitalise FOR ACTION. If its merely for information, capitalise FOR INFORMATION. Then follow it with a very specific title.  For example:

FOR ACTION: Friday’s Presentation

This tells the receiver they have to act on the content before Friday – pretty gripping (also see 6 below)!

3. Be Succinct – e-mails are not about hearing yourself think, they are about producing the desired response from the recipient.  The shorter it is, the more likely it is to be read and fulfilled.  They are electronic sticky notes to colleagues after all!  You wouldn’t leave a 5 page letter on someones desk if they weren’t there when you popped by would you? (please say no!!)  So respect the recipient’s time, it is as precious as your own.

4. Place your messages on a diet – external e-mailing shouldn’t assume every organisation uses the same platforms.  Not everyone has HTML activated (can cut down on marketing info and long messaging downloading); your message might look a bit different when it is received (avoid activating stationery); and use shortened URL links if you can (use services like TinyURL or BIT.ly)

5. Enable a complete response – use line breaks or bullet points to make your message easy to read and respond to. Delineate questions if you can and this will attract specific answers in return.

6. TO and CC – Make it crystal clear why others have been included and/or copied in.  Otherwise accountability will be spread too thinly.  AVOID AT ALL COSTs any opportunity for recipients to transfer the responsibility to act to anyone else – or nobody will do whatever it is you are requiring!  If more than one person is involved, it should be because they each have an action to undertake and this should be clearly referred to, e.g.:

TO:  AA, BB, CC

Title: FOR ACTION: Friday’s Presentation

Message:  I have reserved a room for the above on Friday and attach the draft presentation.  AA: could you please review slides 1-3 and see if I’ve reflected what we discussed?  BB: could you please insert the graphic we discussed last week on slide 5?  CC: could you please attend on Friday and take a formal note of proceedings?

7. Attachments – Attach it first, not last.  This will save your bacon in having to send an inevitable follow up message saying “this time with attachment” and it will also relieve your in-box of the inevitable 3 messages from AA, BB, and CC saying “nothing attached”.  This is fat, and remember, your e-mail is on a diet!

8. Replying – there is nothing worse than sending an e-mail containing 3 questions, and receiving a reply with only one answer.  This will inflate yours and others in-boxes, so avoid at all costs. Commit to answering all e-mail with as thorough a response as possible. Maintain that respect for colleagues time and in-box management in the way you respect your own.

For those e-mails that have followed this strategy and have delineated questions, reply in the main body of the message below each questions.  Keep it tidy and easy to read for the recipient. Use a different colour so they can spot answers quickly.

9. Task Requests – Don’t delay a response until you have completed any request – if you have questions of clarification, pick up the phone, then schedule time to the task in your diary.  We too often treble account for our time and a response is important to the person who sent it.  Respect their needs and schedule time to do what they need.  If not, your in-box will explode again with unnecessary chasing mails!

10. Lead by Example – c’mon, we are on week 3 now, you are becoming a dab hand at putting these lessons together so:

  • edit mail titles in responses if they were unclear to you;
  • break up long paragraphs of noisy ramble and highlight the core of the request and reply to it immediately beneath it in a different colour – help to refocus the senders eye on what you believe to be the core point;
  • if you continue to get long rambling streams of thoughts, reply very succinctly and get out of the inbox by following up with a phone call saying ” we clearly need a conversation on this complex issue”.  This gets you out of stone-deafness and into a situation of being able to read facial expressions and tone of voice.  Communication is primarily non-verbal!
  • Finally, know when to say nothing at all!  NEVER write an e-mail if you are angry, upset, tired, stressed, or worse, drunk. These sorts of responses should go straight into your draft box.  Never say anything in an e-mail that you aren’t comfortable with people overhearing on a bus!

Conclusion

These strategies will help to train others not to expect long responses in real time.  E-mail is an a-synchronous medium but too many folk try to use it for synchronous conversational issues.  So don’t reply in real time, remember, we’ve invoked a diet to your e-mail.  It is not a pavlov’s response!  If someone needs a real time response, they will ring (and you should do same).  If necessary, put a trailer on your e-mail signature saying: “I may not respond immediately to e-mail. If your message is urgent, please ring

Good luck and this will be so worth it!

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