How to Use Templates to Get More Done in Less Time


For years, I have used templates to improve my productivity. I create a template for any task I find myself doing repeatedly. So instead of reinventing the wheel every time, I do it once, save it as a template, and then reuse it.

For example, before speaking engagements, I always have a conference call with the event sponsor. Initially, I found myself asking the same questions. Sometimes, I would forget to ask something important, so I decided to create a reusable template in Evernote. (You can see it here.)

But a template can include more than just the form of the document. It can include the content itself.

For example, several years ago, I found myself responding to the same email requests over and over again. People would request that I review a book proposal, consider them for a job position, or meet with them for some personal advice.

These requests usually came from complete strangers or vague acquaintances. I really needed to say, “no,” in order to be faithful to my other commitments. But I found it difficult.

One strategy would be just to ignore these requests. Many people do just that. However, I didn’t think that would reflect very well on me or my work. Instead, I wanted to be responsive, even if I had to decline their request.

So rather than go through the angst of this every single time, I took a step back and looked at these requests objectively. In doing so, I created a series of email templates. (I personally use Apple Mail on the Mac, so I saved these as a series of “email signatures.”)

I thought through how I could respond in a way that addressed the sender’s request thoughtfully and with grace. [You can see some examples here.] Even though I would have to decline their request most of the time, I wanted to do it in a way that left people feeling considered and respected. And, to the extent I could help them, I wanted to do that, too.

So I created email templates for each of the following kinds of inquiries:

  • Personal meeting request
  • Book proposal review request
  • Business opportunity
  • Employment consideration
  • Blog reprint request
  • Customer complaint
  • Media inquiry
  • Donation solicitation
  • Speaking invitation

Note: I don’t respond to obvious email spam requests for calls or appointments. My spam filter catches most of these but usually a half a dozen or so sneak through every day.

For example, when I receive an email from someone who wants to get together for coffee or a meal to pick my brain, I (or one of my assistants) respond with this:


Thanks for your kind words about my blog. I appreciate that.

Thanks also for your interest in meeting with me. Unfortunately, that will not be possible for the foreseeable future. In order to honor my existing commitments, I am declining new invitations.

However, here are a few ways you can pick my brain. I hope one or more of these will prove helpful.

Kind regards,


I don’t mindlessly use these templates. Depending on the circumstances, I may personalize the response or even respond in a completely different way. Regardless, the template covers 90 percent of the requests and frees me up to focus on the other commitments I have made.

By the way, I first learned about this concept of “tempting” from The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber explores this concept in great detail with lots of excellent examples.

What about you? Are you making use of templates? What are some you have found to be the most useful?

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