How Templates Cured My Gmail Paralysis

I’ve learned an inconvenient truth: avoiding writing a difficult email won’t improve my situation. So why do I fall prey to email paralysis?

I spent some time considering the emails that trip me up most, and I found they tend to fall into a few categories. I put off writing emails that:

  1. must be absolutely free of writing errors,
  2. need to convey lots of detailed information, and/or
  3. share unpleasant news.

Luckily for me, I found a way to minimize that pain by using a simple Gmail setting.

Gmail Templates to the Rescue

The Templates feature (formerly the Canned Responses extension) lets you save pre-written messages you can later insert into an email. And it’s easy to set up.

Gmail Template Menu

For each of the above email problems, I’ve crafted pre-written Template text, which helps me reduce time on these mucky email situations and frees me to do more important work.

Here’s how I solve the examples of email-sending paralysis I shared above—each with a template of its own.

1. Error-free Emails

I generally try to avoid mistakes in my written communication, but I find there’s a big difference between my normal process and making absolutely sure I’ve written a clean email. Six months ago, I needed to write several messages free of typos when I was sending emails to candidates in our hiring process.

Using Templates, I only needed to sweat the details and vigilantly review the copy once. This allowed me to focus on the actual challenge at hand (sending emails to the candidates) instead of worrying over potential writing errors.

Using Templates, here’s the copy I used to advance candidates to the next portion of my hiring process (obviously, I personalized the blanks):

Subject: Take Home Challenge from Atomic Object

Hi ____,

You’re a short-list applicant for our Marketing Specialist position, and we’d like to see your work.

We ask for this work to help us decide whom we should consider for our in-person interview process where you'll meet other Atoms. We also use it to gauge things like:
⁃ Are you passionate and serious about your work?
⁃ Are you creative?
⁃ Do you sweat the details?
⁃ Do you care enough to put some time into showing your abilities?

Attached to this message, you’ll find an assignment instruction document.

If you need clarification about anything in the assignment, you’re welcome to reach out via email. Please submit your response via email by 11:59 pm on Wednesday, August 14.

We'll review the assignments and contact references as our next step.

Thanks for investing your time in pursuing this position. We’re excited to see what you can do.

Sincerely,
Elaine

2. Derailed by Details

Another time Templates saves me misery is when I need to write emails that contain some specific set of information.

I run into this when I submit my work expenses via email. There are a few details I need to send along with each receipt, and I used to find myself consistently forgetting one or two. This created unnecessary hassle for our wonderful bookkeeping team and made me feel like a chump. Luckily, I found a way to minimize that pain with Templates:

Subject: Credit Card Receipt: [Vendor]

Hi accounting team,

I've attached a receipt from a purchase I made using my credit card with the following specifics:

Transaction Date:
Merchant:
Amount:
Purpose:
Expense Allocation (Ann Arbor/Grand Rapids/Global):

Thanks,
Elaine

3. Languishing over a Let-down

Finally, I use Templates when I need to write an email to folks I need to let down easy. We get a ton of requests from people who want to pitch us on their product, promote a website on our blog (we don’t do this), or buy lists of potential customers (also a no). I usually fire off a quick: “No, thanks.”

But we also get a lot of requests to support good causes that fall outside our strategic giving plan. I find writing these refusals more emotionally draining; it’s hard to write a personalized email that balances sincerity and clarity of denial.

Here’s my Template to decline fundraising requests:

Subject: Re: [Opportunity]

Hello ______,

Thank you for reaching out to let Atomic know about this year's [event or group].

After careful consideration, Atomic Object has decided not to pursue this sponsorship opportunity this year.

I wish you luck in this and future events.

Best regards,
Elaine

Convinced?

If you’d like to harness the power of Templates, here’s how to set it up.

I hope you find Templates as powerful a productivity tool as I do—and that you tackle more important work with all the time saved from email paralysis! If you think of more good uses, please share your favorite Templates in the comments.