Putting out lots of small fires


I am a big fan of batching tasks, which is doing similar things like responding to email at the same time to increase your efficiency, since you lose time when your brain has to switch between doing tasks. I had a great opportunity to practice batching this week because I was out of the office all of last week for an out of state funeral and when I got back I had a ton of messages. I help manage our foundation's scholarship programs and we are right in the middle of deadline time. Students don't seem to have any questions in the months proceeding the deadline but the night before the online applications are due, the questions seem to come out of the woodwork (Procrastination can be a topic for a future post). Since we have a variety of deadlines, I usually spend the days proceeding the deadline fielding a ton of calls and email. Each answer takes 5-30 minutes as I try to figure out what the student's issue is and address it. Being away for such a long period of time meant that I had hours and hours of problem solving in my in-box. Looking at this mound of work I realized two things:
1) Most of the problems, when looking at them from the 20,000 foot view of my packed inbox were remarkably the same. Students (or their parents) were either having technical issues with on online system that were usually caused by not using the right internet browser or they had very general questions about our scholarship programs.
2) Most had probably already resolved themselves with time or were solved by our super capable scholarship assistant whose contact information was on my out of office email responder.

First I talked to our assistant about what questions she had answered and for those that were left I developed very generic answer templates that were either a technical support answer or a link to our frequently asked question sheet and answered a ton of questions in less than 45 minutes. Now I also have a resource that I can use for future problems and it only takes me a second or two to send it out.

This got me to thinking about other questions or issues that come up repeatedly like when are grant deadlines, how does the grant process work, and is my idea a good fit with the foundation guidelines, that might also benefit from more of a 20,000 foot view.

What are questions that you get constantly that might benefit from a more generic view?