I have a little rule of thumb: If I’m going to be doing something more than once, I create a template.
Why? Because I don’t like to do the thinking work more than once. And I want to be consistent. And accurate. And fast.
How many times have you found yourself writing virtually the same email over and over again? Or doing a process over and over again? Each time, you’re spending brain power on something you’ve already spent brain power doing. Your’e wasting your energy. And you’re probably pretty inconsistent.
Templates are the answer here. They allow you to maintain consistency, and expend your mental energy on new things, on new content, and not on the already existing framework. You can use templates to ensure your brain isn’t a hamster wheel. Once you get onboard, templates are going to be your best friend.
Here are some choice ways I use templates in my life:
Most contracts, reports and invoices are going to be the same structure every time, and will even contain some of the same basic data (account numbers, addresses, etc.)
Create some basic templates where you can input the details.
Ensure your meetings don’t get derailed by having a set agenda. Of course the content is going to change, but the agenda template shouldn’t.
Meeting agendas should include the following information:
Any prep work (documents to review, etc.)
Purpose of the meeting (specific decision vs. discussion meeting)
Timeline (to keep the meeting on track time-wise)
All Multi-Step Processes
Maybe you are running payroll for your company, or are creating a marketing proposal. Maybe you are just doing your monthly bill-pay process at home.
For multi-step tasks or recurring projects, create a checklist for each step.
Copy the template for each new use case and label appropriately.
Never forget a step again.
If you have similar tasks that need to be done for different clients, or departments, or in your home, create templates for these tasks so you don’t miss any steps.
If you’re using Gmail, there’s a handy “canned responses” feature that allows you to create template emails. You can always add to or edit the templates once you insert them into the email, but you’re going to save a ton of time, and brainpower.
If you’re answering a question more than once, create a canned response (if you’re not using Gmail or another email provider that has this functionality, then great a document with your responses).
Use canned responses to save countless hours and increase consistency.
Partially templated emails will also save you a ton of time. Just highlight where you need to customize the text and remember to proofread before sending.
I don’t cook from recipes much, but I do have several templates that I use for cooking. These are easy meals I can throw together with what I’ve got on hand because I have formula, or template, for the meals. And I don’t have to think too hard about it. For instance:
Sausage and Greens over Polenta (I’m using whatever sausage and greens I have in the house)
Minestrone Soup (I’m using whatever veggies, beans, and leftover meat I happen to have around)
Stir-fry (I’m using whatever protein and veggies I’ve got)
Theme the nights of the week so that you have another kind of dinner template that helps keep the week running smoothly. Think: Pasta on Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Soup on Wednesday, etc.
Use your brain for new ideas and for creativity, not for reinventing the wheel!