Mondays are productivity days at SimpleProductivity blog.
We’ve been talking about automation lately, with articles Automation: An Overview of Getting Back Your Life and Automation For Productivity: Machines Around The House. Today I want to talk about automating correspondence.
But before we get started, let me offer my personal disclaimer on the matter.
I do not believe in outsourcing communication of any sort that is better done by myself. That means I do not pay someone to pick out, sign and address birthday cards. I do not pay someone to send my spouse an apology. I do not let a machine automatically generate newsletters to my family and friends. (Blog readers, well, that’s another matter, but we’ll talk about automating blogging at a later date).
What I do, instead, is automate and simplify those parts that are apt to take me the most time, and I automate reminders.
Reminders For Everyday Communication
My family lives halfway across the country. So do my in-laws. And many of my old-time friends.
And the old adage “out of sight, out of mind” can be very true. In the busy-ness of my daily life, I forget that I haven’t called my mother, or dropped an email to my friends. Not all of my friends are on Facebook, and few read my blogs.
I put reminders in my task system, Remember The Milk, to call my mother every week. I have reminders to send emails to those friends I don’t wish to lose touch with every other week. Repeating tasks allow this to come up automatically, and when they show up on my list, it doesn’t take long to do what I need to.
For one group of friends, I write a generic email about what we’ve been up to, and then I send that out to each friend, along with personalized text directed to the person. The copy-and-paste saves me the effort for the generic stuff, but the personalized keeps it real.
Reminders For Special Events
Missing birthdays is a sure way to make people feel like you don’t think of them. On the flip side, a real mailed birthday card can make a day.
I’ve been on both sides of this. With my own birthday falling in the flurry of Thanksgiving activities, people have forgotten. And we’re talking family here, folks. At the same time, a card arriving from someone I don’t hear from often makes my day.
I use my task system to automate this as well. I put a repeating task for the 20th of each month to process the birthdays for the next month, and in the memo section, I list all the birthdays for the year. Having one task for all birthdays instead of 12 (one per month) gives me one place to look for the information, making adding dates a snap.
Making Correspondence Simpler
At one point in my life, I was really bad about getting out cards on time. It’s a complicated process — go to the store, pick out a card, address, stamp and mail it.
It’s the getting to the store part that’s a killer. I never seem to have time when the stores are open, and I never remember that department stores also have card selections.
So I automated by subscribing to an online greeting card service. This service allows me to print my cards at home, any time of the day or night. I also have the option of sending an e-card, which I usually do as well if I am printing a card (who says you can have too many birthday greetings?) A package of paper, purchased from the local office supply store or Amazon, and I am ready to go.
Another way to make it simpler is to have stamps at home. In the US, you can purchase stamps through the mail. I keep a roll of stamps on hand, and have the postman deliver my new ones when I run out.
The Dreaded Mass Correspondence, AKA Holiday Cards
It is also possible to make holiday cards simpler as well. Look forward to a series starting the first week of December, on how to do that.
It is possible to automate correspondence while still maintaining the personal touch. By automating reminders and making it easier to produce mail-able cards, you can stay on top of it yourself.
Photo by Schnittke