For years, I have used templates to improve my productivity. I create a template for any task I find myself doing repeatedly. So instead of reinventing the wheel every time, I do it once, save it as a template, and then reuse it.
For example, before speaking engagements, I always have a conference call with the event sponsor. Initially, I found myself asking the same questions. Sometimes, I would forget to ask something important, so I decided to create a reusable template in Evernote. (You can see it here.)
But a template can include more than just the form of the document. It can include the content itself.
For example, several years ago, I found myself responding to the same email requests over and over again. People would request that I review a book proposal, consider them for a job position, or meet with them for some personal advice.
These requests usually came from complete strangers or vague acquaintances. I really needed to say, “no,” in order to be faithful to my other commitments. But I found it difficult.
One strategy would be just to ignore these requests. Many people do just that. However, I didn’t think that would reflect very well on me or my work. Instead, I wanted to be responsive, even if I had to decline their request.
So rather than go through the angst of this every single time, I took a step back and looked at these requests objectively. In doing so, I created a series of email templates. (I personally use Apple Mail on the Mac, so I saved these as a series of “email signatures.”)
I thought through how I could respond in a way that addressed the sender’s request thoughtfully and with grace. [You can see some examples here.] Even though I would have to decline their request most of the time, I wanted to do it in a way that left people feeling considered and respected. And, to the extent I could help them, I wanted to do that, too.
So I created email templates for each of the following kinds of inquiries:
- Personal meeting request
- Book proposal review request
- Business opportunity
- Employment consideration
- Blog reprint request
- Customer complaint
- Media inquiry
- Donation solicitation
- Speaking invitation
Note: I don’t respond to obvious email spam requests for calls or appointments. My spam filter catches most of these but usually a half a dozen or so sneak through every day.
For example, when I receive an email from someone who wants to get together for coffee or a meal to pick my brain, I (or one of my assistants) respond with this:
Thanks for your kind words about my blog. I appreciate that.
Thanks also for your interest in meeting with me. Unfortunately, that will not be possible for the foreseeable future. In order to honor my existing commitments, I am declining new invitations.
However, here are a few ways you can pick my brain. I hope one or more of these will prove helpful.
I don’t mindlessly use these templates. Depending on the circumstances, I may personalize the response or even respond in a completely different way. Regardless, the template covers 90 percent of the requests and frees me up to focus on the other commitments I have made.
By the way, I first learned about this concept of “tempting” from The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber explores this concept in great detail with lots of excellent examples.