Groundhog Day

Do you ever feel like Bill Murry in the movie “Groundhog Day”? In the 1993 classic, Murray portrays a weatherman assigned to cover the groundhog’s emergence from his hole. In a weird twist of events, the character finds himself living the same day over and over and over.

Maybe you feel like the character “Phil” as you work through your email. You answer a question with a detailed response.

The next day, you get the exact same question and find yourself crafting a response.

Two days later, here comes the same question. It’s enough to make you shout, “It’s Groundhog Day!”

Why It’s So Bad

The first time you get the question, your reply is thoughtful and it’s polite. Get the same question five times, especially when it’s 4:00 on a Friday afternoon and your frustration shows up in the curtness of your response.

It’s not the fault of the person asking the question. It’s his first time to ask.

You realize you are wasting time re-composing the same stuff. You may not realize your response is becoming anything but friendly. You are wasting time while simultaneously being rude!

Introducing Text Expander

What if you could compose that thoughtful response one time and reuse it just by hitting a couple of keys? Welcome to the world of the “text expander.” If you use Google Chrome, there is a wonderful extension known as “Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome.” Let’s get started:

  1. Click here to go to the Chrome Store. In the upper right, click the “Add to Chrome” button.
  2. Notice the icon that now appears just to the right of the address bar. Click on it. Here is where you will be able to create your shortcuts.

Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome

Compose that detailed and thoughtful email response in the box on the right. To the left, choose a shortcut consisting of two or three characters. Entering those characters in your email will cause the entire response to appear.

My Favorite Auto Text Expander Examples

The name of your organization. If you work for the “Abracadabra International Society for the Preservation of All Things Great and Wonderful,” you probably cringe at the thought of keying that title even once, let alone multiple times every single day. Pull up the text expander and enter the name once on the right-hand side. Pick a couple of letters for the shortcut and enter them on the left.

Frequent hashtags. I include the hashtag #GetOrganized on many tweets. More often than not, a typo destroys the whole purpose for the hashtag. I created a shortcut…#G which expands to #GetOrganized. I find it works when I am composing in Twitter or HootSuite. It does not seem to work in the Hootsuite Hootlet.

Date stamp and date/time stamp. To understand the value of these two shortcuts, read the post Digital Note Taking: A Different Take. In that post, I talk about using the note section of a task to document communication related to it. Recording the date (and time) of a phone call is always helpful. I find myself using this shortcut all the time. Clicking in the note section of a task and keying ds enters the current date. Keying dts enters the current date and time.

To help you, if you want a date stamp, copy the following: %d(MMMM Do YYYY) and paste it into your Auto Text Expander. If you want a date/time stamp, copy the following: %d(MMMM Do YYYY, h:mm:ss A) and paste it into your Auto Text Expander.

Your email address. How often do you type your own email address? How often do you include a typo in it? That spells disaster, doesn’t it? I created a shortcut. Entering e@ produces my email address.

Common sentences. Do you find yourself closing countless emails with the same statement? For me, “I hope this information helps” is one of them. Create a shortcut that will produce the entire sentence.

Common typos. Some people are great typists. I don’t happen to be one of them. I find certain words where I tend to reverse or omit a letter. One example is “would.” I know how to spell it. But without fail, it comes out “wold.” So, I created a shortcut. Anytime I type “wold,” Auto Text Expander changes it to “would.”

Email signatures. You know how to create an email signature in your software of choice. What if you want to use different signatures depending upon the nature of the email? One way to accomplish your mission is through Auto Text Expander. Start by creating your signature in Gmail. Include any hyperlinks or other html. Paste it into Auto Text Expander. Choose a name for your shortcut. Perhaps you choose sig1, sig2, and sig3 for the shortcuts to each of three email signatures. Now, when you close an email, just enter the shortcut for the signature you wish to use.

It Syncs Across All Computers

One of the beauties of Chrome is that it syncs across your computers. Once you have installed Auto Text Expander for Google Chrome on one of your computers, you are done! Install it on your desktop at work. When you boot your laptop (and log into your Google account), you find Auto Text Expander is already there. All of the shortcuts you created are available to you. Go home and log into your computer. Your shortcuts work there too.

What if you borrow a friend’s computer? Log into your own Google account on his machine. Auto Text Expander loads. All your shortcuts are ready for you to use.

Others will be amazed at how quickly you respond to emails with detailed and thoughtful replies. If only they knew just how easy it is.

Is this something that would help you? If you already use a text expander, what are some of your favorite shortcuts? Feel free to comment. Also, please share this post on Facebook or Twitter with others who could use it.