In the last week, four separate professionals have told me to handwrite a thank you note to someone.

At the risk of this article turning into a chain letter, taking a few minutes to rethink the email thank you or get out of our private gratitude journals to send a genuine paper-and-pen thank you may be easier than it sounds and serve us in more ways than we remember.

Miss Post and the post

The thank you — written or spoken — is a cornerstone of good manners. And while acts of appreciation have become more varied (shout-outs, likes and gratitude apps, to name a few) the practice of gratitude has also become easier. We can leverage this ease to send more frequent and meaningful thanks.

For example, one of the professionals that was extolling the virtues of the written thank you last week was a presenter at the conference I was attending. He explained the intrinsic value of a thank you, emphasizing they should be written clearly, specifically and frequently.

To do that requires a system that puts the thank-you notes, stamps, envelopes and mailing addresses within reach. And with a basic supply order and search on Maps, a system can be set up as quickly as Staples can deliver the cards.

Who are you? Who, who, who, who

The next challenge was determining to whom to send thanks. The second person emphasizing the thank-you note was a colleague attending the same conference.

She explained that she had set up an easy system for writing and sending thank yous but a couple of months into her goal to send one per week, she ran out of people to send thank yous. Not wanting to seem disingenuous, she skipped several weeks trying to figure out to whom she could send a note.

Thus, the second step to a better thank you is having a list of thank yous to send.

In other words, we need to scan our landscape and mine our activities for opportunities to say thank you. The third person mentioning the importance of thank yous was a conference host.

She noted that she has appreciation triggers. These triggers are activities that she wants to recognize or reinforce, relate to a special interest, or have inspired her to think differently. By focusing on specific categories for her thank yous, she said she is better poised to see things for which she is grateful, thereby making it easy for her to meet her appreciation goal (which was five per month).

For all in tents and porpoises

While having a goal seemed to be a common theme among the thank-you mongers last week, the underlying trend was to have a purpose.

Like any other project, knowing why we want to do it and what we hope to accomplish are critical. Thanks for the sake of thanks seems like a good thing but to make it a sustainable practice we need to make it meaningful.

This can mean different things to each of us: recruiters and salespeople are often great at thank yous to build and reinforce their networks. Meanwhile, leaders fresh from a conference may just want to add a little more positivity in their lives.

Whatever the case, by setting up a simple system, defining a few things for which we are thankful and understanding the purpose driving this new habit, we can be on our way to a solid gratitude practice before the end of the week.