Do you always respond to emails right away? Or do you let them pile up? Scheduling your outgoing messages is a great way to make sure your inbox doesn’t get the best of you. Learn more about the benefits of scheduling your emails here.
Set clear limits
Not everyone works what would be considered a “normal” work schedule. If you’re a night owl or an insomniac who likes to check your inbox at 2am because you have nothing better to do, more power to you. But can sending emails late make your co-workers think you’re available 24/7, day or night?
If you email after work at 7pm on a Friday, you may be unlucky enough to get a response via email, instant message, or phone call. “Just keeping track of your recent email” are words no one wants to hear when they’ve settled in for a night or weekend away from the office.
You can avoid setting unrealistic expectations of yourself by timing your responses for a time when you expect to be awake and available. This could be just before you start work in the morning or at lunchtime the next day.
This allows you to make good use of downtime so you can focus on more important matters the next day (or even make room in your work schedule for coffee or a game of Minesweeper).
Make sure your emails get to the top of the stack
There are also tactical reasons to delay your outgoing messages. Email is a medium that has not changed much since its creation. Some email clients try to reorder your inbox by perceived importance, but not all use these features. And some email clients still favor reverse chronological inbox sorting.
If you send a message at 10 pm the night before the reading, it is very likely that your message will be buried at 9 am the next day. If you want your message to appear closer to the top of the stack, schedule it to be sent shortly before you want your recipient to read it.
Advice: Remember to write your email taking into account the time you expect it to be delivered. For example, you can say “Good morning” or “See you this afternoon” whenever the context requires it.
There’s a good argument for responding to an email when it arrives, assuming you have the time to do so (and are completely sober). When you read an email that requires a response, your brain will begin to compose an appropriate response whether you want it to or not.
Remembering everything you had to say the next day after sleeping on a message can be difficult. That’s why you should consider typing and timing your response, so you don’t forget what you had to say in the first place.
You may also find it easier to go offline again knowing you’ve fixed the problem. After all, you won’t be worrying about everything you have to do tomorrow.
Delay shipping to make changes
Some email responses take a little more time and consideration than others. Dealing with sensitive issues or important decisions can be a stressful process. So it’s important to take the time to make sure your response contains everything you want to say while remaining respectful.
You can also make good use of an email scheduler in these circumstances. These tools allow you to commit to a response knowing you have a few hours or days to make changes to outgoing email messages if needed.
This is even useful for run-of-the-mill job responses. For example, you can review emails written late the night before on your morning commute before sending them. Make this part of your routine, but don’t get discouraged after hitting the “Schedule” button (time is ticking, after all).
Most services now support scheduling
It wasn’t that long ago that you needed to rely on a third-party service, email client plugin, or expensive service upgrade in order to schedule an email. Fortunately, many services now include email scheduling as part of their standard features.
For example, Gmail allows you to schedule an outgoing message by clicking the dropdown arrow in the “Send” box and selecting “Schedule Send.” The Microsoft Outlook desktop app allows you to schedule an email using the “Delay Delivery” feature.
Apple added mail scheduling to its iOS 16 and iPadOS 16 Mail apps, and the feature also made its way into Mail for macOS Ventura.
Learn how to unsend emails too
Although it is not technically possible to “unsend” an email, many services now advertise the feature. In many cases, these services introduce a delay before the message is sent, so you can quickly stop the progress of the email.
Learning to use this feature can help you avoid embarrassment or allow you to send your message at a more convenient time.
Gmail has an unsend feature since 2015 and Outlook has a similar feature. Apple Mail in iOS 16, iPadOS 16, and macOS Ventura also introduced the feature (just look for the “Undo” button that appears immediately after you hit send). Apple also introduced the feature in iMessage.