Do you find yourself saying the same – or similar – things over and over in email? Do you dig through old emails to find that great response you sent so-and-so last month?
Templates are time-saving tools where you save and recycle verbiage for future use. When I am training clients to use Outlook to its best advantage, one of the most valued tips I give is how to – and when to – create email templates. Let’s start with the “when.”
Email templates are useful when:
- You are in sales and repeatedly send out product or service descriptions via email. The beginning and end of the email may change, but the middle is generally the same.
- You receive requests for information, consultation, or assistance and repeatedly respond with similar verbiage. You may tell them that you’ll get back with them in a certain timeframe or maybe even refer them to someone else to handle the request.
- You are repeatedly emailing your assistant to set up this meeting or that phone call. A template can prompt you to provide the requisite details that help ensure that the meetings happen with the right people in the right timeframe.
Did you notice the word “repeatedly” in each of the bullets above? That’s the beauty of email templates. Creating the verbiage from scratch each and every time it is needed is a serious time waster.
How to Create Email Templates
My favorite way to save verbiage for future use in an email is to use signatures. You probably have one or more signatures already that contain your contact information. Who says that we have to leave it at that? In Outlook, you can create many different signatures that not only contain your contact info, but have additional verbiage ready for use. When you are sending or replying to an email, all of your templates/signatures are listed under the Signatures button (see Outlook 2010 screenshot below). Make sure your contact info is set as your default signature, though.
Another place to store and recycle email verbiage is in the Notes feature of Outlook. For most users, it is the yellow sticky note icon in the lower left corner of the screen (see screenshot below). The first line of the Note is what will show up when you want to retrieve it later on, so it’s best to make that the title/subject of your template. Notes are text only, so I don’t recommend using this method if you need to include links in your template.
A third option is to simply create a folder called “Templates” and store emails you want to poach verbiage from in that folder (see screenshot below). This is especially applicable when an attachment is an integral part of the email template. You can open the email, click “forward”, tweak the verbiage as needed, and you’re done. Just make sure to remove the “FW:” from the subject line so you won’t appear too efficient!
Whatever method you choose, it is important to keep templates accessible and separate from all your other email files. Nothing ruins the time-saving benefits of a template more than having to search or dig for them.
Dr. Melissa Gratias (pronounced "Gracious") is a work psychologist who helps overwhelmed and underappreciated businesspeople be more focused and effective. Since 2007, thousands of people have graduated with honors from her onsite sessions, distance coaching, productivity seminars, and corporate consulting projects. Based in Savannah, Georgia, Melissa is available for nationwide consulting and speaking engagements. Contact her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 912-417-2505. Sign up for her free monthly e-newsletter or visit her website, melissagratias.com.