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The Secret to Avoiding Email Overload: Canned Responses

If you're like most office-bound professionals, you're probably drowning in email. When I recently wrote about the top 5 rules for voicemail etiquette, one common theme in reader comments was that as bad as voicemail is, at least it's more personal and human than email, which we all seem to get too much of. If you have so much mail that you simply can't keep up, you might want to consider a strategy offered by Stepcase Lifehack: Set up some boilerplate responses for common types of mail.

After you deal with the easy stuff -- mail from your boss and close co-workers and other messages that have very obvious replies, you can lean on a pair of boilerplate messages that you can use for just about everything else:

A follow-up message is needed. For messages like this, you might want to create a canned response that looks like this:

Thank you for your email. I'm glad you reached out to contact me regarding SUBJECT.

While I'm interested, my time is at a premium these days. I'll give the matter further thought and will get back to you within the next X business days. If you require an answer sooner than that, simply respond to this email and give me a timetable so I can try to follow-up more quickly.

Again, thanks for your email and I look forward to hearing back from you shortly.

No follow-up is needed. For this class of message, try a canned response like this:
Thanks for your email regarding SUBJECT. I appreciate the time you've taken to give me a heads up on this.

Unfortunately, it's not something that I'm willing to take on at this time.

Again, thank you for reaching out to me and good luck with SUBJECT.

The beauty of a system like this is that you can craft a few canned responses and use a tool like Outlook's auto text to automatically insert it in a message with just a keystroke. Spend a few seconds customizing the message, and you'll be able to power your way through an overstuffed inbox with ease.

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