Speed up email with custom email templates

July 23, 2008

I’ve been talking with one of our users about ways to streamline some of his business operations. Sending inquiry emails to sale listings takes up a lot of his time, so we were looking for a way to speed those up. Developing email templates is a great way to speed up your workflow on repetitive tasks. Unlike mass mailings, it still allows you add a personal touch and comment to each recipient.

Tim Ferris has more on creating and using standardized emails in his book, The 4-Hour Workweek. He’s also got some great comments about making email productive and not getting bogged checking messages all day.

Outlook’s built in template function makes it easy to save them, but opening one up takes almost as long as rewriting for short messages. Greg Shultz over has TechRepubic has a nice tutorial on creating your templates and then adding them to your menu bar so you can generate emails from a template quickly.

If you’re a Gmail user, this handy Google homepage module can help you create you templates as well: Gmail Template Generator. Here’s a quick example to show it in action.

Just type in the details in the form.

Hit “generate” to create the message and see how it looks.

Then bookmark the URL to save the template.

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Using Jott with Enleiten

June 29, 2008

We’ve become badly addicted to the most excellent Jott here at Enleiten. Unfortunately, while it’s incredibly easy to use and quite useful, it hasn’t been possible to integrate into our trusted system until now. We are still waiting for Jott developers to add us to their official list of Jott Links, but until they do, here’s how you can set up a custom link yourself. Read the rest of this entry »


Save Time Taking Screenshots

May 27, 2008

I’m still playing around with Skitch, but so far it’s shaved at least 5 minutes off every screenshot I’ve been taking (and yes, this means new documentation is on the way for you!).

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Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

It’s a free Mac download, and well worth a try. You just click the “snap” icon on the display screen, use the crosshairs to select your capture, and you’re able to edit and annotate that screenshot within a second.

Clearing annotations to create different notes on the same screen capture is a simple button click, too.


Make Time Tracking Easier

May 15, 2008

I am becoming increasingly enamored of Jott.

If you haven’t tried it, you sign up with your cell phone, and add contacts. You can just call Jott, tell it who to send a message to, and leave a voice message. They’ll transcribe it (speaking clearly really, really helps…), and email both the text message and the recording to you or one of your contacts.

How does this help with billable hours? If you’re using time tracking on your computer, it’s easy enough to keep your application of choice open to mark time. If you’re on the road, however, try Jott. Call in and send yourself (or your assistant) a message with the start time and project name. Call in again on your way out the door. By the time you get back to your computer, you’ll probably already have emails documenting which jobs you worked on and how much time you spent working on them.

There are lots of other tips for using Jott on the Jotter blog.

And yes, an integration to let you Jott tasks to your Enleiten account is coming soon, we promise. Because we really want it, too.


10 Ways to Beat Procrastination

April 28, 2008

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In an interview between Merlin Mann and David Allen, I heard the great phrase “Procrastination isn’t about not doing, it’s about not doing and feeling crappy about it”. None of us want that ambient guilt bearing down on us during our time off, so here’s 10 great ways to figure out why you’re procrastinating and finish what you have to do.

  1. The excuse: It’ll take so long!. Maybe, or does that objection stem from not really knowing how long it will take? Set a timer for 15 minutes and see how far you can get. You can use a kitchen timer, the alarm on our cell phone, or grab a computer based timer, like a widget with an audible alarm. Most of them time, I can finish before the timer goes off just by forcing my self to get started.
  2. The excuse: I’ll mess it up. So what? Do a quick scenario run down in your head. Even if you don’t do it perfectly, will the outcome really be a problem? You’re nervous about calling a potentially big client – but if it doesn’t work out you’re not any worse off than you were. So what if you aren’t good at painting or knitting? Do it, enjoy it, and practice until you’re great. Your color choices or dropped stitches won’t cause anyone any harm.
  3. The excuse: I don’t know enough. Not being an expert doesn’t mean your efforts aren’t worthwhile. Tufte may be the expert on displaying information, but he’s not going to be putting together anyone’s quarterly sales reports. Acknowledge that lots of the work, in every company, everyday, is being done by non-experts – and the results are pretty impressive. And unless you’re contemplating neurosurgery, you can use your current skills, a few questions to colleagues, and some research to be good enough.
  4. The excuse: It’s not worth it (pt. 1). You’ve already committed. But maybe you can renegotiate the task. Will an outline do instead of a draft? Can you offer to take on something else for the person you committed to this task for instead? Can you delegate it to someone else, so your responsibility then lies in making sure it happens? Delegating isn’t necessarily a cop-out. If you ask the right person, this can be a great learning experience for them, a chance to cross train on a related team, or a way they can demonstrate they’re ready to take on more responsibility.
  5. The excuse: It’s not worth it (pt. 2). So maybe you can’t renegotiate. For whatever reason, you have to do it. As long as this project is weighing on you, it’s draining your energy and attention. Try reframing your reason to reflect this. Getting the task or project done is no longer about finishing it for its own sake. Now it’s about taking a weight off your shoulders to free your mind up to relax and enjoy other things without guilt.
  6. The excuse: It’s not worth it (pt. 3). You’ve probably been through parts 1 and 2 before. A great way to avoid procrastinating on similar projects again is to look at why those “not worth it” projects in the past repelled you. If you’re a freelancer, did you charge less than you feel you’re worth? Promise not to make that mistake again. Did you make a commitment before understanding the effort and the time involved? Resolve to get more clarification in the future.
  7. The excuse: I just can’t get into this. Sometimes it’s just hard to get into the right frame of mind to make progress. Are there easier related tasks you can start with? Try cranking through a few of those to get yourself in a productive and successful state of mind. If they’re part of the same project, they can also grab your attention and help you load the right ideas in your mind, so when you go back to neglected task you’re already thinking about it.
  8. The problem: Distractions. When you’re avoiding a task, working in a space that offers shinier, more entertaining alternatives is going to strain your willpower. Schedule a block of time devoted to nothing else. Close your email if you can. Turn your phone to silent or have your assistant hold your calls. If you’ve got the flexibility, consider changing locations. Go to a library or coffee shop and bring just the materials you need with you. It’s amazing how much more interesting your task becomes when you don’t have anything else to do.
  9. The problem: Your to-do list. Make sure your to-do lists are set up to help you work. If you procrastinate often, maybe you need shorter lists of things you’re actually going to do that day to keep you on track. If so, move more to your “someday” list. Maybe you need to view your attention as a resource, and group tasks by how much energy and focus you have. Maybe your tasks are too vague, and little time to process them into steps or add additional supporting detail to the steps will make them seem more manageable. Take the time to examine your set-up periodically and see if how well it really reflects the way you work when you’re at your best.
  10. The problem: Lack of urgency. If you’ll honor it, set yourself a deadline. If you’re not sure that’ll do it, give yourself a source of external accountability. Tell a colleague or a friend you’ll see at a meeting the next day you’re going to finish your task or project before you see them. Ask them to check in with you about how it went.

If only Hansel and Gretel had cameraphones…

April 17, 2008

File under: Minneapolis has a skyway!

While being utterly trounced by the delightfully named “Strike Your Fancy” bowling team last night, I mentioned Tuesday’s article on uses for your phone camera to my fellow bowlers. And really the resulting story was too entertaining not to share.

Apparently, having once gotten disoriented at a new job downtown trying to navigate the maze-like Skyway system, someone had started using their cameraphone to take photos at each intersection while they learned their way around. On your way back from lunch, just follow the photos in reverse order and you’ve got a trail of portable breadcrumbs.


6 Ways Your Camera Phone Can Make you More Efficient

April 15, 2008

parkingramp.jpgSure, my phone camera (and lack of skill using it) isn’t going to get me any great photography awards. But it’s portability and ability to capture things quickly make it a great productivity tool. Here are 6 easy tips for taking advantage of your phone’s capabilities:

  1. Now where did I park? In a big lot or ramp, pull out your camera when you get out of the car and snap a quick shot of the nearest parking sign.
  2. What was that wine again? If you’re enjoying a new wine, beer, or even bottled water at a restaurant, snap a quick photo of the label. Next time you’re out shopping, you can show the nearest clerk exactly what you’re looking for.
  3. I think I remember you… If you’re meeting someone for the first time, and have the nerve, ask to take their picture. When you get home, add it as their user icon to your CRM tool of choice. You’ll be reminded of them every time you call, email, or set up a meeting.
  4. I have got to have that bag! See someone with great style? Ask where s/he found the coveted accessory and if you can take a photo of their purse, glasses, hat, shoes, whatever. When you get home you can look it up online and compare to your photo, or visit the store and ask for something similar.
  5. whiteboard.jpgWhat did we decide again? Instead of lingering in a conference room and transcribing your whiteboard, grab a quick picture of the content. If there isn’t much, you can work from the photo or transcribe the text later. If there’s a lot of content in multiple pictures, you can delegate that work to your assistant, local or virtual.
  6. Is that a good choice? We’ve all done it. You’re at the store and see a mixer that looks pretty good, but don’t know if it’s a really a good deal for the price. Or you’re wandering through a garden and see some flowers you think would look great in your yard, but aren’t sure what they are or what kind of conditions they need to thrive. Grab a quick shot with your camera phone, email it to yourself, and when you get home you’ve got a reminder to do a little research or a photo you can forward to an expert for advice.