Emails have a tendency to take over our work days. But there’s one trick that can help you get through them quickly and efficiently: Canned responses. Using templates for common requests not only saves you time, but helps you make better and quicker decisions by removing the friction of writing every response from scratch.
With a little bit of upfront investment in time, you can put together a library of canned responses for most situations. To get you started, here are some of the most useful ones we use to save hours of email time each week.
How to use canned responses in Gmail
You can set up canned responses in pretty much every modern email client. But if you’re a Gmail user, it’s especially easy.
First, activate canned responses under Settings > Advanced > Canned Responses.
Once that Gmail setting has been enabled, you can save emails you’ve written as canned responses. Type a response or start a new email and then use the More button and select Canned Responses and New canned response… to name your response.
Next time you’re replying to a message, your canned responses will show up in the menu and can be added to the message with one click.
10 email canned responses to save you from inbox overload
1. A quick request for a 30-minute meeting with a calendly link
When to use: Few things take up more time than scheduling a meeting. Instead of spending 4–5 emails trying to find a time that works for you, send a simple canned response that links to your calendar.
Here’s a link to my calendar. Feel free to choose a time that works for you. When you select a time, make sure to enter the contact details where you’d like me to reach you.
2. Decline a bad-fit sales or partnership email
When to use: Not everyone has an easy time declining opportunities that have come their way. It’s only human nature. We don’t want to come across as negative or aggressive. However, it’s too easy to spend hours trying to perfect your “It’s not you, it’s me” response.
Having a simple canned response gets rid of that friction and allows you to deal with these situations quickly and move on with your day.
As RescueTime CEO, Robby Macdonell explains:
“This one almost seems dumb because it’s so short. It’s not really saving any typing. But telling people ‘no’ is really hard for me, and if I’m not careful I can spend way longer than I should trying to figure out the nicest way to word a ‘thanks but no thanks’ note.”
This isn’t something we’re interested in discussing. Sorry!
Have a good day.
3. Divert a meeting request to email
When to use: Your time is your most precious resource. And you need to be able to protect it from bad opportunities. While it’s easy to turn down business opportunities that are a bad fit, it’s slightly more difficult to turn away someone genuinely asking for your help.
In these situations, you can use this canned response to lightly brush off the request, while keeping it open if they’d like to continue talking over email.
I’d love to hear more, but my schedule is really full at the moment. How about we continue the conversation over email for now? Then if it makes sense to do so, we can schedule a call at a later date.
4. Handle an upset customer
When to use: No one likes getting bad news. And it can often feel paralyzing trying to word a response to a negative email. That’s where having a simple “message received and we’re on it” canned responses comes in handy. This is particularly powerful when it comes from someone in a more senior position, like a manager, VP, or even the CEO.
Not sure what has gone wrong here, but I’m forwarding it to our support team to investigate.
We’ll get to the bottom of it and follow up ASAP.
5. Get rid of low-priority work
When to use: Sometimes you just have too much work on your plate. But just like declining a business opportunity or meeting, it’s easy to spend too much time on a negative response.
In these cases, it’s good to have a simple canned response for letting people know you won’t be able to help them.
Thanks for thinking of me for this project. Unfortunately, my schedule is completely full for the next few weeks.
However, I have a [co-worker/colleague] who has helped me with this sort of work in the past. I’d be happy to reach out to them and see if they have time.
How does this sound?
6. Sharing instructions or knowledge
When to use: There’s lots of opportunities where people email asking for help. And while some of these will definitely need a custom response, there’s also plenty of scenarios where it will save everyone time by pointing them to resources you’ve already created. This canned responses is especially good for dealing with the dreaded “Can I pick your brain” emails.
Thanks for getting in touch!
I’ve put together quite a few posts that should help answer your questions. Take a look and let me know if you have any specific questions I can help with.
All the best,
If you’re working in a company, you won’t necessarily answer in the above manner. Instead, you might want to point someone to a Trello board, Google Doc, or other resource where they can find the information they need. In that case, you can create a canned response that says:
Check out this [Trello board, Google doc, etc…]. It’s pretty extensive and should be able to answer most of your questions about [Problem].
If there’s anything else you need help with, just let me know.
All the best,
7. Sending out meeting agendas
When to use: Long, winding, open-ended meetings are the bane of the business world. Rather than respect everyone’s time and get the most out of being together, meetings often go off course and end with nothing more than booking another meeting. But a little upfront work can help solve this.
By getting in the practice of sending out an agenda and talking points beforehand, you can make sure the meeting starts on the right foot.
Looking forward to our meeting on [Date and time of meeting]. Please take a few minutes to go over the details below:
Topic: [What is being discussed]
Goal: [Objective of the meeting]
Dial-in: [Where is it taking place? Delete if unnecessary.]
Questions to address:
- [Item 1]
- [Item 2]
- [Item 3]
Thanks! See you all then.
8. Put off responding to someone (and ask if it’s urgent)
When to use: Some emails require just a quick response. But in lots of cases, they’ll take serious time to consider and respond to (this is what we call Communication Debt!)
Rather than letting the weight of your email knock your whole day off track, it’s good to have a canned response ready to tell the person you received their email, are thinking it over, and will get back to them shortly.
Thanks so much for getting in touch.
I just wanted to let you know that I’m looking into it and will get back to you before [end of day/end of week] with an answer.
If this is urgent, let me know and I’ll try to get back to you sooner.
All the best,
9. Project kickoff
When to use: A new project is always a catalyst for an overflowing inbox. Rather than have a ton of back-and-forth about what’s going on and who’s doing what, a simple project kickoff canned response captures everything you, your team, and your client needs to know in a simple message. Think of it like a mini Scope of Work document.
You can use this template (or a customized version of it) after an initial meeting for internal project kickoffs, freelance client work, or working with an outsourced team.
It was great chatting with you all the other day and I’m excited to get the project moving!
Here’s a record of what we discussed (if anything doesn’t sound right or needs clarification let me know so we can clear it up before we start):
Objective: [A one line, high-level explanation of the work. I.e. “Redesign X Company’s main marketing page.”]
Goal: [The agreed-upon business objectives attached to the project. I.e. “Increase conversion rate X% and lower bounce rate by X%”]
- [Deliverable 1]
- [Deliverable 2]
- [Deliverable 3]
Schedule: [When the work is taking place and when the first milestone is due.]
Payment terms: [How much the project will cost. When it will paid. And how.]
Thanks everyone! Looking forward to getting started on this and working together.
All the best,
10. “Nagging” emails (reminding clients about payments or sending files/copy)
When to use it: Emails often just create more emails. Especially when it comes to something you need. Whether that’s a file from a designer, copy from a writer, or payment from a client, there’s lots of situations where a canned “nagging” template comes in handy.
This is a short reminder that [payment is overdue, I’m still waiting on designs/copy and can’t move forward without them].
Please get back to me at your earliest convenience.
The key to great canned responses is customization
The key to using canned responses is to setup email templates that will give you a headstart. Not just do the work for you.
Communication is personal and the last thing you want to do is just fire off a ton of cold, dry, templated responses.
Each of these canned responses is designed to allow you to tweak and customize them for the situation. They reduce the friction of writing a response to a common question and save you from thinking “well maybe this time…”
And remember, this is just a starting point. If you find yourself answering the same question twice, it’s worth it in the long run to save it as a template.
Want to find more ways to optimize your time in your inbox? Check out our free guide to 21 Gmail Settings that will boost your efficiency, focus, and productivity.