Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Eliminate "whoops" emails forever

Have you ever sent off an email only to realize 3 seconds later that you just insulted the boss, or sent your receipts for your chronic halitosis treatments to the entire organization?    This article explains a little trick in Outlook rules I’ve discovered that has pretty much eliminated this problem for me.    After following the instructions in this post, any message you send will stay in your outbox for 60 seconds before it gets emailed.   Believe me, that 60 seconds is plenty long enough for your brain to realize that you just sent a career-limiting email and then do something to fix it. 

Here’s how to do it (you will need a recent version of Microsoft Outlook)

-          Create a new rule

-          Under “Start from a blank rule”, select “Apply rule on messages I send”

-          Click “Next”

-          Click “Next” again on the “Select Conditions” list

-          Outlook will warn you that this will apply to every rule, Click “yes”

-          In the “Select actions” list, check the box that says “defer delivery by a number of minutes”

-          Click “A number of” in the rule description box and select “1”.

-          Click “Next”

-          Click “Next” again on the exceptions list

-          Give the rule a name  and click “Finish”  (Outlook will warn you that it is a client-only rule)

How to use it in practice

You have to understand how Outlook works in order to take advantage of this rule-  

Let’s say that you’ve just hit send on an email.  You’ll see that your outbox  will have a number next to it like this:  Outbox [1].   This indicates that there is a message waiting in your outbox.  ( If you wait sixty seconds, you’ll see your message disappear as it is sent.)   If you click on the Outbox itself before the message goes away, you’ll see the message in there with bold italic text.   That font is a signal that the message is about to be sent.

-          To stop the message:  All you need to do to stop a message is open it.  Double click on the message in the outbox and you notice that the text in the outbox list will change to plain, unbolded text.   This is a signal that outlook is ignoring the message.  At this point, it will never get sent.  

-          To send the message again with altered text:  Double clicking on the message will stop it from getting sent *and* open it in a viewer.   Hit the “reply-all” button and you will get a new message with all the original recipients of the old one.   Now you can edit the text and press send and you’ll see a new message show up in the outbox.  At this point you can delete the original, unbolded message.

Customizations to consider

-          Sometimes you’ll want to shortcut the rule, such as when you need to quickly send a file to somebody.   You can add an exception to the rule that will cause it not to fire on messages that have some secret text in them.  For instance: “KWIK!” or anything else you like. 

-          For people who believe in not answering email too quickly, consider bumping up the delay to an hour.   I’m not brave enough to try this, but if anyone does, please let me know how it goes!



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