I’m not going to lie, I don’t have a perfect record when it comes to sending thank you notes.
But, like many areas of my life, I’m constantly trying to get better at it. I’m sure you can relate…
It seems like the biggest barrier to writing thank you notes for gifts is making the time—just sitting down for a moment to write them.
The other thing that holds you back is that nagging question of “what will I write?”
You have genuinely good intentions. You want to send a thoughtful and personal note, but what EXACTLY do you say? And what if your note sounds lame or awkward? It’s not like any of us sits around practicing how to write thank you notes all day, so they don’t exactly come naturally.
As it turns out, there’s an easy formula you can use that solves the problem of what to write in your thank you notes:
Basic Thank You Note Formula for Gifts
The basic wording for personal thank you notes is ridiculously simple. It has only 5 parts, and you can use this as a template for all your thank you notes:
Don’t let the simplicity of this formula fool you into thinking it’s not a legitimate approach—or that it’s somehow “minimalist.”
As long as you adjust the thank you note wording to add personal details, it is perfectly acceptable for your note to consist solely of these 5 elements. Many charming thank you notes are only two or three sentences long if you don’t count the greeting or signoff/name.
Of course, if you want to embellish it by adding some extra detail to section 2 or section 3—making it more of thank you letter—you can’t really go wrong.
Keep in mind, the purpose of the thank you note is to acknowledge the person for giving you the gift. The mere fact that you are taking a moment to recognize their generosity (regardless of whether it’s a short note or a long thank you letter) makes the recipient feel appreciated.
If I may geek out for a moment: the origin of the word, “Thank” is the Latin tongere, which means “to know.” So when you’re thanking someone, you’re simply saying “I know what you did for me [and I appreciate it].” (Tip of the hat to Jordan at Art of Charm for that bit of trivia).
Finding Time to Write Thank You Notes
As for making time to write your thank you notes, that challenge is a little trickier.
Though, whenever I finally get around to jotting down a few thank you cards, I am amazed at how quick it is. I mean literally minutes (or minute, in some cases).
I was putting THIS off? Ridiculous!
Like so many other items on our to-do list, the task expands in our minds when we procrastinate…but ends up being totally painless once we finally tackle it.
The core issue is that we think all our thank you notes have to be written in one sitting. So we put it off.
The solution is pretty simple: don’t try to “carve out time” to write your thank you notes all at once. Use Alan Lakein’s “Swiss Cheese Method” (affiliate link) for productivity by poking little holes in the project over time.
You can make it easier by creating a few “Thank You Note stations” throughout your house. Make some post-it note lists of the thank you notes you need to write. Then take these lists and put them at a few key spots in your house along with some thank you cards and a pen. Try random spots like your kitchen counter, your bedroom dresser, next to your gym bag—anywhere you’ll run into them frequently throughout the day.
Then, when you get up to grab something from the fridge, you’ll see the cards on your kitchen counter. If you’re watching TV, you can easily bang out 1 or 2 thank you notes during a single commercial break. Or, when you’re bending down to put on your running shoes, you’ll take a second to quickly dash off a note.
Automated Thank You Notes (Now You Have No Excuse)
Another thing that sometimes holds me back from writing thank you notes is my messy handwriting. It’s bad. I mean really bad—sometimes when I take notes, I come back to them a day later and have NO IDEA what I wrote. It looks like Sanscrit or Cryillic…
If you have the same problem, then I’m happy to say I’ve found a solution for both of us: automated thank you notes.
You simply select a card online, type your message into the box, and a physical card will be printed with a font that looks like real handwriting. You can even choose from different handwriting styles.
These aren’t sponsors or affiliates (at least not as the time of this post), I just think they’re cool. I came across Bond a few years ago. While they are a little more expensive, one unique thing is that all their notes are written by this bizarre-looking machine that actually holds a real-life pen. Watch the video here.
I just came across Postable recently, though they’ve been around for a few years. I really like their interface, and it’s very easy to use. Here’s their promo video.
Are Automated Thank You Notes Cheating?
Now, you might be thinking, is this cheating? Does sending a “handwritten” note you didn’t actually write still count as a personal thank you note?
Ok, of course it would be better for you to write your own note using your hand and a pen. Obviously, that would be more personal.
But since these services help reduce the “friction” of writing thank you notes—and make them fun to write—I think that’s a big positive. Especially if it means your thank you notes go out more promptly and consistently.
Plus, since you can add in your personal message, I still think automated notes deliver enough of a personal touch that they accomplish the goal of the thank you note: to show you took a moment to think of the giver and acknowledge their generosity.
That’s my take. But I’d be curious to hear your perspective. Leave a note in the comments below.
So, even if thank you notes have been a hassle for you in the past, you now have a few more tools to tackle them easily.
If you’re struggling with what to write, use the easy 5-part formula above and download my free thank you note templates.
And if you can’t seem to find the time to write thank you notes, try the suggestion of breaking up the task and creating mini “stations” throughout your house where you can dash of a quick note on the fly.
Finally, if the act of physically writing the thank you notes is the problem (whether because of handwriting or sheer laziness) consider checking out one of the automation services above.
If you have other tips about writing thank you notes, please share them in the comments below.