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Reducing the Friction: Processing E-Mail, Part 2

A few weeks ago I published a Reducing the Friction blog post centered on helping to streamline the tasks involved in processing e-mail. (Recall that there is a distinction between managing e-mail and processing e-mail.) In this Reducing the Friction post, I’d like to revisit the idea of processing e-mail with a slightly different take: using text expanders to streamline composing and replying to e-mail messages.

As much as we all love to bash e-mail as a productivity killer, it has become something of a necessary evil in most professional environments. As such, we’re better off (in my opinion) reducing the time and effort it takes to deal with this necessary evil so that we can get on to bigger and better things. The use of text expanders—tools like TextExpander, Typinator, TypeIt4Me, and others—can actually help in a number of ways.

Here are a few ways that I use a text expander tool (my choice is Typinator) to help in composing and replying to e-mail messages:

  • There are common phrases that I find myself using on a regular basis, such as “Thanks for your message” or “Sorry for the delay in responding.” Rather than typing these phrases out every single time I use them, I set up a text expansion shortcut to type them for me. So, I just type the three or four character shortcut, and Typinator automatically substitutes the full phrase. Most of the text expansion utilities also have the ability to make these expansions case-sensitive (I know Typinator does), which allows you to substitute capitalized or non-capitalized versions of the phrase.

  • I prefer to use inline or bottom posting in my e-mail replies (instead of the default top posting), so that the entire thread is easily readable from top (oldest) to bottom (newest). However, this frequently throws people off, so I have some “markers” that I use to help readers navigate. These are phrases like “See my reply below” or “My replies are inline, marked with [SL]” (or similar). Rather than typing these phrases manually, I have my text expansion utility do it for me.

  • While many e-mail clients support signatures, sometimes you might want to use a different signature than the “default” signature you have configured. I prefer to use a text expansion shortcut to supply the signature, which allows me to choose which signature to use on a message-by-message basis. For me, this works better than having the e-mail client automatically tack a signature on the message. (You could just as easily have your e-mail client use a default signature, but change it manually using a text expansion shortcut when desired.)

These are just three examples; I’m sure that you can probably come up with more. In fact, I’d love to see what sorts of additional ideas readers might have. Feel free to add your ideas and thoughts in the comments below. Courteous comments are always welcome!

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