The little things always matter

Use a checklist to improve the quality of your work.

I’ll just start by saying, it’s nice to have this kind of reminder on a personal project instead of on something for a client.

I screwed something up today. Something really simple. But I only found it after I’d emailed it to a couple hundred friends — and one of them pointed it out to me.

My tale of woe
My husband and I just got married this past summer. So we haven’t done the hard work yet of consolidating address books, for instance. We each came up with 2-300 folks we’d normally include on our holiday card list. We decided the fastest, simplest thing to do would be to put together a web page and email it to our friends.

You already know, I’m sure, that that’s neither fast nor simple.

We put a site together with photos and text we both liked. It took several days, since we spent quite some time considering which photos to use, what to say about them, and on and on. Then we had to compile our addresses.

While I live online to a large degree, I didn’t have email addresses handy for several old or close friends. And even worse, I used to have more than 1 computer address book. I suspect many of you have the same issue. Until the past year or two, it was difficult to make different computers, operating systems, and applications talk to each other. So my contacts used to be all over the map.

In the past year, I’ve consolidated most of them in my Apple address book. But when I first set up Mac’s Sync feature to combine my address books at home and work, and then sync them with my cell phone address book, I ended up with a lot of duplicates. Many entries were slightly different — you know, I’d have the cell phone number on my phone, but not my computer, so the address book kept two entries for the same person. Over time, I’d taken care of many duplicates, but it’s tedious, manual work. I realized today that I had more than half the alphabet to go.

I got my personal addresses straightened out after about 3 hours of work. My husband had sent his in a text file. I wanted to combine them and send them from a joint email account we have, but I quickly realized that it would take several more steps to export the addresses from my address book and import them into the other email program. So, I cried fins and decided to send the message from my regular email account.

The problem
By this point, I was so tired, annoyed with technology and ready to move on that I just typed out a quick email message, added the link and sent it off.

Within 5 minutes, a friend had emailed me to say…the link was broken.

I hadn’t taken the 2 seconds to click the link before sending the email.

The end result
I’ve made such dumb errors before professionally, but not in a long, long time. I’m actually really grateful I did this today — though I’ll apologize again to all my friends and family for having to send them 2 emails when 1 should have done.

If I’ve got to make the error to remind myself not to make it again in the future, best that it happen on something personal.

Prevent this from happening to you
I’ve sent bulk emails professionally since the mid-1990s, and I learned early on that you have to have a process to prevent stupid errors. Because it is easy to send an email — so we all skip steps we know we should complete.

To make sure your emails are perfect, use a checklist. Check off each step every time you send an email. A simple list might include these items:

  • Check subject line.
  • Spell-check and proofread copy.
  • Check all alt tags for images.
  • Click all links to test.
  • Review sent from field.
  • Review recipients list.

Depending on how complex your email is, or who needs to approve it first, you may need more items on your list.

Learn more about how checklists can improve the quality of your work.