Blogs

Top tips from Mesmo Consultancy (and Associates) on how to save time and improve business and personal performance by ‘Taking Control of your Inbox’ and using proper business email etiquette.

Email etiquette – Punctuation Matters Guest Blog by Joanna Gutmann

Saturday November 9th, 2019, 6:20 pm

Top tip on email etiquette: punctuation matters, even on the least formal email and the apostrophe is one of the least-understood marks. One of the difficulties in writing email is that it has replaced so many forms of business communication from the telephone conversation, through the informal memo, to a letter even a short report.  Whatever the formality of the document, it is the punctuation that gives your words voice tone and makes your meaning clear.

Over 90% of the people who attend my in-house workshops on punctuation name the apostrophe as the mark they would most like to understand and be able to use correctly.  Whether it’s whether one is needed at all, whether to place it before or after the ‘s’ and how to use it when names end in ‘s’.

Email Etiquette: Punctuation Matters

Most people look blank when faced with rules such as, place the apostrophe after the ‘s’ on a plural unless the plural is not made by the addition of ‘s’ in which case the apostrophe is placed before the ‘s’.  And who can blame them!

One of the best-kept secrets in punctuation is that there is actually only one rule that matters, because it encompasses all the other ones and ensures that the apostrophe is always in the right place.

Before you can use the rule you have to answer three simple questions:

1.Is anything owned?

The apostrophe is a hook, it hangs on a word to warn the reader that it is not a plural, the ‘s’ indicates ownership.

  • We give our customers the products they want.
  • We give our customers’ privacy top priority.
  • Which is the office that James prefers?
  • Which is James’ preferred office?

2.What is owned?

This might be something tangible like a pen or laptop, or something less so like an office.  It might be a mood, feeling or advice.  The terms ‘owned’ or ‘used’ are generally used to loosely describe this.

3.Who is the owner?

This might be a named person, a group, and organisation, etc.

  • James preferred office (the office is the item, the owner is James)
  • Sandys desk (the desk is the item, the owner is Sandy)
  • Monicas book (the book is the item, the author is Monica)
  • Doctors training (the training is the item, the users are ladies)
  • GPs training (the training is the item, the owners are the GPs)
  • My GPs advice (the advice is the item, the owner is my GP)
  • Childrens toys must be fire-resistant (the toys are the item, the users are children)

So the punctuation rule that everybody needs?  Draw a circle around the name of the owner and the apostrophe will always go on the circle.

  • James’ preferred office
  • Sandy’s desk
  • Monica’s book
  • Doctors’ training
  • GPs’ training
  • My GP’s advice
  • Children’s toys

Good email etiquette and punctuation means its easier for people to read your email and less scope for mis-understanding.  All this saves time, reduces email overload and hence helps improve productivity and well-being.

Joanna Gutmann, author of Readability and leader of in-house workshops on punctuation and the mechanics of writing gives a useful tip to get the apostrophe right every time.

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Smart Meeting Management Tools

Monday October 21st, 2019, 7:42 pm

Do you use smart meeting management tools? We have seen how Microsoft Outlook Scheduler can help save time finding dates.  But what about organising all the associated paperwork eg minutes. Read on with a Guest Blog from from Ashley King of Matchware

Five ways time and £191 Billion are wasted on meeting management

Studies suggest that the cost of unproductive meetings in the UK is a staggering £191 Billion. It is incredible that businesses in 2019 are literally throwing a significant amount of money down the drain, money and time that could be better spent elsewhere within the business to make it more profitable. It may come as no surprise to see the 5 common meeting complaints that follow:

£19 Billion wasted through poor meeting management.

1.     That meeting was a waste of my time

2.     People haven’t done their actions from last meeting

3.     It is taking a long time for minutes to be generated

4.     Gathering information from previous minutes is a lengthy process

5.     Meetings are regularly running over their allotted time

Often when I discuss the common meeting complaints with people who regularly attend meetings, I receive the nods and smiles that cover a lot of frustration when they are thinking about their meeting process.

How can you save money and time organising meetings?

By working towards changing the complaints above, businesses can save literally thousands, whilst freeing up time to take advantage of opportunities that were once unattainable as a result of everyone being tied up in meetings.

There are incredible opportunities for PA’s/EA’s to make changes to the meeting process that drive several efficiencies for their companies, whilst also getting the recognition as the valuable asset they truly are.

How to make the changes?

From speaking to thousands of PA’s and EA’s, I’d suggest starting with looking at the meeting process. In most cases, looking at how software can help can make a huge difference. OK, so you have had the same process for years and “it works”, but it can be the cause to the complaints above.

It is quite popular for businesses to have quite a manual process in place, but have you honestly critiqued your meeting process? It fascinates me that in 2019, many haven’t, and many continue to use a manual process. Many are still doing the same things people were doing 20 years ago!

Knowing how technology has improved our lives so much over 20 years, is it possible that there is software to help the meeting process too? Of course there is!

OK, what can I do to change this?

In simple terms, you can leverage software. Things that take you 10-20 minutes can be done in 1 or 2 clicks. Over the course of the meeting process, there can be significant savings in time for organisers and attendees of meetings. Through software like MeetingBooster, you have several tools at your disposal that help meetings to run with a clear purpose, on time, avoiding unproductive and over running meetings. Imagine what businesses could achieve if they clawed back the time lost in unproductive meetings to focus on driving the company forward? Imagine being the one that made it possible for your business?

Ashley King, Matchware

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Time Management: top tip for organising external meetings

Wednesday September 4th, 2019, 10:15 am

Here is a little know time management tip for arranging external meetings using Microsoft Outlook. Email part of your calendar to those with whom you are arranging a meeting instead of laboriously typing out a list of dates and times etc.  The email will just show the availability.  Here is how to execute this time management tip using your Microsoft Outlook Calendar.

  1.  From the Calendar File tab pick Email Calendar.2. From the pop-up menu Send Calendar via E-mail, complete the box as required by selecting the Date Range, eg Next 7 Days.  You will see it only shows Free, Busy, Tentative etc.  There is no fear of disclosing what is happening on busy days.

When complete click OK and the selected portion is automatically dropped into the body of  email as show below.

Put all the names in the Bcc box to stop the endless rounds of Reply All emails. Then only you get all the responses and can decide on the best date. Just another tip to save time and reduce email overload as everyone plays email ping-pong back and forth with dates.

If you like this tip, it is just one of many which we cover in our Smart Email Management workshops.  Why not contact us now to book one for you and your colleagues?

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Effective Email Management and Etiquette – Quick Top Tips

Tuesday September 3rd, 2019, 8:59 pm

Effective email management –  a new series of videos with top tips on effective email management and etiquette. These will enable you to save time and raise performance.  Each is about 45 second long and focused on one simple action you can take to improve your well-being and mental health by reducing email overload.

Don’t forget you can always benchmark your email etiquette.  Click here to start.

To check your your email management click here to see if there is scope to save time.

 

  1.  Subject Line.  The importance of a good subject-line to enable people to notice your email and respond promptly.

2. The Greeting.  Casual or formal?  What is the best email etiquette for business emails?

3.  The closure.  Casual or formal?  What is the best email etiquette for business emails?

4. Thank you emails.  Should you send them or do they just raise the current email overload factor?  What’s the alternative?

5. Calendar management.  How to deal with unexpected meeting invites in order to better manage your time.

 

6. Think Before Hitting Send. Top tips to save yourself time and improve compliance with GDPR

7. Quiet Email – the effective way to gain the recipient’s attention without shouting and using high priority markers etc.

8. Think Five.  Five top tips to improve productivity and save time dealing with email by sending the right message right first time.

 

Watch this space for more each month.

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Save Time Organising Meetings Using Outlook Scheduling Assistant – Guest blog by Shelley Fishel

Monday September 2nd, 2019, 1:38 pm

How to improve your time management and meeting management with the Outlook Schedular and reduce email overload.  You’ve been tasked with organising a meeting with several attendees, let’s say 6. You set up a meeting and send it out without checking whether everyone can actually come! Now you end up with 5 responses telling you that either they are unavailable or would like to propose a new time. Needless time and energy wasted and  frustration. Not only that, you have to keep track of all the responses and you really don’t have time for that!

Use the Scheduling Assistant

Using Microsoft Outlook, the Outlook Scheduling Assistant makes it easy to manage your time and the meeting. It enables you to create meetings at the best time for all attendees ( assuming they are all at the same organisation) and easily track who has replied and more importantly what they replied.  No need to trawl through your Inbox to see who has answered or remember to jot down the responses as they come in.

Set up the meeting and check attendees availability using the Scheduling Assistant and as soon as a reply arrives it is noted – you can see those replies all in one place too. Not only that, you can paste those replies into a Word Table or an Excel Spreadsheet as a checklist for the meeting.

Windows or Mac?

There is more functionality in Outlook 2016/Office365 on the Windows platform. The Scheduling Assistant does exist in the Mac version, however there is less advanced functionality as we will see.

Where is the Scheduling Assistant?

To get to the Scheduling Assistant first set up a meeting request. In the Calendar click on the New Meeting Icon and add the people you wish to invite. Set up the date and time and the topic of the meeting along with any notes you want to add in the body of the meeting such as the Agenda or any special instructions. Then click on the Scheduling Assistant Ribbon at the top of the screen:

 

Once you are in the Scheduling Assistant screen, you will see a list of those invited along with a timeline showing you who is free and who is busy.

Here you can see:

  1. Scheduling Assistant Ribbon
  2. Lis of Attendees
  3. Time of the meeting with availability
  4. Whether there are any conflicts with the organiser schedule

Note that it only shows the schedules for people at your organisation – so anyone attending this meeting with @tomorrowsva.com in their email address. I can still invite others, who are not @tomorrowva.com however I won’t be able to check their schedule.

Get Outlook to pick the next available time

On the Scheduling Assistant Ribbon click the Auto pick next icon and Outlook will move the meeting to the next time slot where all attendees are available.

You will now be shown the next slot – in the image above I can see that 10:30 am is not the best time to meet up with Veronica so I will ask Auto Pick to find me the next free slot.  The Scheduling Assistant now shows the next time we are both free – in this case 11 am.

You can continue to ask Outlook to AutoPick a new slot until you are happy with the meeting time.  Alternatively you can drag the meeting to a new location or change the date and time manually. Click on the blue lines to select the meeting time and drag to the new location.

Get back to the original meeting request

In case you want to add any more instructions or text to the body of the meeting request, click the Appointment icon.  When you are happy with the meeting request, you can send it.

On Mac

There is no AutoPick option so to change the meeting time, drag the meeting to a new time or change the time manually.

Track responses – Windows Only

The first thing you will see is an email telling you how your attendee has responded

This can get lost quite easily in your Inbox as Inboxes can get VERY busy… To track the responses to your meeting invitation open the meeting in your calendar and click the Tracking Ribbon.

View Tracking Status

When you click Tracking, Outlook shows you a list of attendees and their responses.

Here you can see that Veronica has accepted and Shelley has had no response. No surprise there Shelley is the organiser!

Copy Tracking Status to Clipboard

When you copy the tracking stats to the clipboard you can then paste it into a Word Table or an Excel Spreadsheet – you have a readymade checklist.  Click the button to Copy Status to Clipboard and then open Excel and paste.

Track responses from people not at your organisation

When you invite people to a meeting, they may not always be at the same organisation as you are. Even when you are not using the Scheduling Assistant as the Meeting Organiser you can still track the response from attendees. Click the Tracking Icon to see who is coming.  Now that you can see the responses, you can nudge those who have not yet replied!

Summary

Using the Outlook Schedular you have saved time for yourself and those attending the meeting and significantly contributed to reducing email overload.  Less stress and wasted energy leading to improved performance and well-bing.

 

Shelley Fishel is the founder of Tomorrow’s VA an online training academy for assistants.

 

 

 Scheduler’s

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