If you interact with more than three people at work, and especially if you are in a matrix management position, do you find it difficult to answer the following question:
Who still owes me a reply to a message I sent?
Unless you have a system to track the requests you send via email, only when you actually need the information as input to another task, will you remember, for example, that Jim hasn’t reviewed those figures you emailed him last week. At this point, if the response hasn’t arrived, it’s almost too late because you cannot get on with your own work, and your own schedule and commitments are affected.
Here’s a trick for keeping track:
- In your email program, create a folder called “Waiting For Answer”.
- Whenever you write a message that requires an answer, have your email program save the message in the “Waiting For Answer” folder after it’s been sent.
- Check the contents of the “Waiting For Answer” folder a few times a day, and remove the messages that have received a response. If it’s getting close to when you need a reply and it still hasn’t arrived, it’s time to send a reminder…
Step 2 is a bit clumsy in Microsoft Outlook, though it can be done. When you compose your message, click the Options… button on the toolbar, and specify “Waiting For Answer” in the Save sent message to: box. If you want to make life easier, you can use SpeedFiler to prompt you for a folder when you send the message.
The best trick for getting a response, however, is to ask for it! Take the guesswork out of the message and include a very clear call to action that spells out exactly what you are asking the recipient to do, and by when.