How Canned Responses Give You An Extra 30 Minutes Every Day

If you’re writing the same thing again and again and again, you might as well can it. And then get some real work done.

How Canned Responses Give You An Extra 30 Minutes Every Day
[Image: Flickr user N.karim]

When we spoke with Ryan Holmes earlier this fall, the HootSuite CEO unpacked his bag of productivity tricks, like an affection for yoga, an openness to the occasional nap, and a super-clever inbox hack–the autoresponder, which allowed him to be less of a switchboard for the company and more of a leader. But we left out another way to shave off the time you spend inbox-digging: the canned response.


As he tells us:

I have a bunch of canned responses. I find I get a lot of common requests around sponsorship, around speaking engagements, around business development and integrations. I have canned responses because I found I was rewriting emails.

Let’s think about the time costs of rewriting emails. Some people get an insane amount of emails–Tina Roth Eisenberg, the founder of Swissmiss, Tattly, and CreativeMornings, can get nearly 1,000 a day. Yet we can only send so many in a workday: According to one study, it’s around 70 messages a day, accounting for 28% of our time–which prevents us from doing the most productive, skill-expanding work.

We’re dwelling in our inboxes for more than a quarter of our workdays.

So what do we do about it? We can’t get rid of email–another messaging service will just create another inbox, as Mailbox will tell you–but we can adapt. And canned responses can, as The 3 Secrets to Effective Time Investment author Elizabeth Grace Saunders says, help you “cut down answering time from minutes to seconds.”

Converting minutes-long tasks into second-long tasks may seem negligibly incremental, but if we’re talking about even half of the 70 emails you might be sending a day, you’re looking at having an extra 30 minutes or more in your day, which can be invested in the most high-value work, or, alternatively, a chance to actually restore yourself.

So how do we start canning?

Let’s use Gmail as a case study. As Alex Cavoulacos notes at the Daily Muse, you first need to click the gear icon on the top-right corner, then hit settings, then Labs, then Enable, then Save Changes.

Youtube user Technobuzznet has a walkthrough:


When do we use them?

It’s the messages we find ourselves writing again and again. For Holmes, the HootSuite CEO, it’s stuff for conferences, speaking engagements, and business development. Cavoulacos says it might be weekly meeting announcements or conference room requests. For Fast Company, it might be wild declarations of love for Taylor Swift. What might it be for you? Tell us in the comments.

Hat tip: the Daily Muse

About the author

Drake Baer was a contributing writer at Fast Company, where he covered work culture. He's the co-author of Everything Connects, a book about how intrapersonal, interpersonal, and organizational psychology shape innovation.