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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13 responses to “How I saved 15 minutes a week from emails in 2 simple steps

  1. Hi Hassan,
    That sounds like a brilliant idea!
    Regards,
    Raghu
    🙂

  2. Don’t think it is so brilliant… 15 minutes per week are nothing compared to the rest of the 60-80 hours week one often does. Therefore I’ll prefer to stay polite and keep the greetings 🙂

    • Thanks for the note – yup, 15 minutes might seem trivial compared to a 60-80 hour week (let me guess – you’re in either consulting or investment banking?), but they’re still 15 minutes per week better spent on something else (such as Phil Town’s Rule #1)! Plus, I’m referring to communication with people you get in touch with regularly (close friends, family, etc.) who already know you’re polite anyway 🙂

  3. To: TheCouchManager
    Re: How I Saved 15 minutes on car insurance

    i agree that it’s a good idea and a time saver to have a boilerplate signature.

    i don’t mean to be a naysayer but i personally wouldn’t drop the greeting. i don’t think dropping ~2 words at the outset of a communication is a good idea especially because i don’t think it saves that much time. there is little to gain and an opening greeting (even if it is boilerplate) is certainly something to lose.

    i realize it is a formality but sometimes it is the formality that can connect people. a handshake for instance. a hello when answering the phone. these formalities kick start communication. these are also indicators of polite, respectful communication.

    please note: my comment is completely devoid of accusation. i just wanted to post up the the conservative flag.

    • Thanks for your feedback – you make a good point. I think this post isn’t for everyone – it depends on how much time you’d save (which depends on how fast you type & how many emails you write per day), and how much that time you save means to you. If the costs outweigh the benefits, then it won’t make sense to do it!

  4. i think i agree with the drop of the greeting, i mean, isn’t it just assumed you are talking to them? you wouldn’t send an email to one person and put dear bob if that wasn’t them, do they want to make sure its for them?
    as for the close, i have done that for many years with my email, i agree it saves me so much time, especially when you are trying to be conforming in your emails, you dont want “bye” on one and “F & L Name, email@email.com, 111-111-1111″ on another. just seems more convienient to just have it set

  5. The automated signature is great – you can even place your company’s logo in it. For an email between you and your office mate, it is fine to drop the greeting if you frequently talk face-to-face anyway. For customers or other external people, I wouldn’t drop the greeting. Adding a personal touch to an impersonal communications medium does go a long way.

  6. good idea for people who write a lot of emails.
    how about having the greeting automated as well, like a “hello” or something – since this is meant for close people only anyway. that would solve the problem of being polite or not. we do that in sms as well, don’t we?

    great blog by the way, just stopped by first time.

  7. I dropped the greeting with most people a long time ago. I agree with the thoughts that it’s sort of awkward. I mean, emailing someone I work and teach with every day, but maybe don’t run into when I need to check something, to say things like, “Dear Anna, still on for coffee tonight? Thanks, Elizabeth” just sounds sort of stupid. Clearly Anna and I know who we are planning on having coffee with- if not, I need to get a new coffee partner.

  8. Wow…how busy ARE you that you can’t even afford to spend 15 minutes a week writing “Dear Joe (or whoever)”?? lol.

  9. That’s a great idea for most of people, but for my case, I think it’ll only saves 2 minutes by week with the same amount of mail. I use Gmail which already automate the signature part.

    And I type so fast, so it’s take me 1s or less to type the greetings part.

  10. The hardest part for me is when clients don’t write the greeting to me. I feel it’s rude not to open with the greeting. I know, I know, even though they are doing it themselves! Love your blog.

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