Monthly Archives: January 2011

How I saved 15 minutes a week from emails in 2 simple steps

Every email I’ve written has started and ended with something similar to the following:

So I looked at the facts:

  • I write around 20 to 30 emails a day
  • I type at a rate of 50 words per minute
  • The greeting (“Hey John”) and signature (“Regards, Hassan”) cost me around 5 seconds per email
  • That’s a waste of around 15 minutes each week

So here’s how I saved that time in two simple steps:

  1. Dropped the Greeting: For the greeting, I emailed those I regularly correspond with that I’m going to drop the “Hey/ Dear/ Hi You” part. It was just a waste of time typing “Dear Jane” if you were the only two communicating anyway. Some might think that’s offensive, but not if you tell them you’re going to do it ahead of time. A simple note saying “Hey – given that we email each other regularly, I thought we could both save some time dropping the greeting formalities from our future emails – just like we do through SMS” helps put things in perspective. You can also just link them to this post to save yourself the trouble of explaining 🙂
  2. Automated the Signature: For the signature, I automated it so I don’t have to retype it in every email. Nearly all email clients have the signature feature – here’s how to add it in Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo, or Outlook. This isn’t really an innovation as most people already use signatures, but most add only their name. They still waste time retyping “Regards,” “Best,” “Sincerely,” “Take Care,” or “Cheers,” in every message, so adding that courtesy line to your signature makes sense. Extra tip: You can also add an empty line space before your signature to avoid hitting the “Enter” button after every message.

There are a couple of caveats to dropping the greeting. First, do it only if you’re emailing someone one-on-one. If you’re emailing multiple people, even if they’re on CC, it could get confusing as to who you’re directing the message to. Second, this applies to individuals you email regularly and have already established a relationship with. I wouldn’t drop the greeting when emailing a new business client or someone you infrequently correspond with.

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8 Interpretations of Silence when using Instant Messaging

I use Instant Messaging (IM) a lot in my job to manage my team and connect with friends. I love it because I have the unparalleled advantage of multi-tasking different conversations with so many people at once. Of course, it does have a few drawbacks, but overall, I still think it’s a valuable tool in the arsenal of online communication – particularly for couch managers.

However, there is one pet peeve that most individuals share when using online chat: Silence

I’m not referring to the natural pauses that occur during a normal back & forth online conversation, but rather to the (sometimes intentional) disappearing act that people choose to do after reading an IM message.

Here’s a typical online chat session:

Person A: Hey!
Person B: Hey, what’s up?
Person A: Nothing much, things are going great so far
<Some more small talk>
Person A: Quick question. Regarding the budget report and status update we discussed last week, I wanted to follow up on where we stand with that. Do you have something you’d like to share before our meeting this afternoon? I don’t feel I have all the info I need before discussing them with the client.
Person B: *Silence* (for quite a while)
Person A: Still there??
Person B: *More Silence*

Here are 8 interpretations that go on inside Person A’s mind:

So basically, Person A starts making assumptions and acting upon those assumptions, and that almost always leads to miscommunication issues.

Here are 3 lessons learned for Person B to save everyone time and frustration:

  1. If you’ve read the message, for the love of God, type out what you’re thinking. Even if you’re hesitant to answer, a simple “Let me think about it,”  or “I’ll get back to you” would be much more appreciated compared to the agonizing feeling of wondering whether you read the message or not.
  2. If you haven’t read the message, then type a quick “brb” before stepping out or set your status to automatically update to “Busy” or “Away.”
  3. If you got disconnected while in the middle of a chat conversation, a courteous follow up with a call or email to let Person A know you might have missed a message would help a lot. Surprisingly, with all the technology we have to date, a lot of those IM clients don’t always update your online/ offline status in real time, so one can’t always tell if you dropped off before you got the last message.

Three Tips to Make People Reply Back to Your Email

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to have colleagues and friends get back to me through email when I really need them to. Most individuals get a ton of email every day, so to stand out from the crowd you need to think marketing. Here are 3 quick tips you can apply to your subject lines:

  • Write their name: People are primed to recognize their name when they skim over it in a bunch of junk, so start out the subject of the email with their first name. Using their nickname earns you higher points.
  • Summarize the email’s topic: Don’t just type a generic summary (“CV Attached”). If your objective is to get an answer, then ask a question (“Think this attached CV is a good candidate?”).
  • Write down a deadline: This creates a sense of urgency, and people hate to miss deadlines (even if they’re fake 😉 ).

Here are a couple of good/bad subject line examples:

Bad Example: Financial Update PowerPoint Deck
Good Example: Dave – need your input on this financial deck by tomorrow @ 6:00pm

Bad Example: Lunch
Good Example: Jen – you available this Thu for lunch? Let me know by COB

 

Over the years, I’ve learned a few tricks to have colleagues and friends get back to me through email when I really need them to. Here are 3 quick tips you can apply to your subject lines to make someone reply back to your messages.

 

  1. Write their name: People are primed to recognize their name when they skim over it in a bunch of junk, so start out the subject of the email with their first name. Using their nickname earns you higher points.
  2. Summarize the email’s topic: Don’t use a generic summary. If you have a question, ask it. If you need a review, mention it.
  3. Write down a deadline: This creates a sense of urgency, and people hate to miss deadlines (even if it’s fake 😉 )

 

Here are a couple of examples:

 

Bad Example: Q4 Financial Update PPT

Good Example: Dave – need your input on this financial deck by tomorrow @ 6:00pm

 

Bad Example: Lunch

Good Example: Jen – you available this Thu for lunch? Let me know by COB.