Why you should plan your emails

Woman checking email on laptop

Do you always reply to emails right away? Or do you let them accumulate? Scheduling your outgoing messages is a great way to make sure your inbox isn’t getting the better of you. Learn more about the benefits of scheduling your emails here.

Set clear boundaries

Woman using smartphone in bed
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Not everyone works for what would be considered “normal” working hours. If you’re a night owl or insomniac who likes to check your inbox at 2am because you have nothing better to do, more power for you. But could sending overdue emails lead your colleagues to think that you are available at all hours, day or night?

If you email after work at 7pm on a Friday, you may be unlucky enough to receive a response via email, instant message, or phone call. “I’m just following up on your recent email” are words no one wants to hear when they’ve settled down for a night or a weekend away from the office.

You can avoid setting unrealistic expectations about yourself by scheduling your responses for a time when you expect to be awake and available. This may be right before starting work in the morning or at lunchtime the next day.

This allows you to make the most of your downtime so you can focus on more important matters the next day (or even make room in your work schedule to grab a coffee or play Minesweeper).

Make sure your emails get to the top of the pile

Person viewing their inbox on a laptop
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There are also tactical reasons for delaying your outgoing messages. Email is a medium that hasn’t changed much since its inception. Some email clients attempt to reorder their inbox based on perceived importance, but not all of them use these features. And some email clients still prefer reverse chronological sorting of inbox.

If you send a message at 10pm the night before reading, there’s a good chance your message will be buried by 9am the next day. If you want your message to appear closer to the top of the stack, schedule it to be sent just before your recipient reads it.

Suggestion: Remember to write your email taking into account the time you expect it to be delivered to you. For example, you can say “Hello” or “See you this afternoon” whenever the context requires it.

Respond right away, while your thoughts are fresh

Man working on his computer at night
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There’s a good argument for replying to an email when it arrives, assuming you have the time to do it (and you’re completely sober). When you read an email requesting a response, your brain will start composing an appropriate response, whether you want it 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 writing and scheduling your response so you don’t forget what you had to say in the first place.

You may also find it easier to shut down again knowing that you have solved the problem. After all, you won’t worry about every single thing you need to do tomorrow.

Delayed submission to make changes

Change when a scheduled message is to be sent

Some email replies take a little more time and consideration than others. Dealing with sensitive issues or important decisions can be a nerve-wracking process. So it’s important to take the time to ensure your response contains everything you want to say while remaining respectful.

You can make good use of an email programmer even in these circumstances. These tools allow you to engage in a response knowing that you have a few hours or days to make changes to any outgoing email if needed.

This is also useful for standard and ordinary job responses. For example, you can review all emails written the night before on your commute before they are sent. Make it part of your routine, but don’t settle after hitting the “Schedule” button (time runs out, after all).

Most services now support scheduling

Touch and hold "to send" button to show scheduling options

Not so long ago it was necessary to rely on a third party service, a mail client plug-in, or an expensive service upgrade to be able to schedule an email. Fortunately, many services now include mail scheduling as part of their standard features.

For example, Gmail allows you to schedule an outgoing message by clicking the drop-down arrow in the “Send” box and choosing “Scheduled Delivery” instead. The Microsoft Outlook desktop app allows you to schedule an email using the “Delay Delivery” feature.

Apple has added mail scheduling to its Mail apps for iOS 16 and iPadOS 16, with the feature making its way into Mail for macOS Ventura as well.

Also learn not to send emails

While it is not technically possible to “cancel” 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 how to use this feature can help you avoid embarrassment or allow you to send your message at a more convenient time.

Gmail has had an unsubscribe 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 “Cancel” button that appears right after you hit send). Apple also introduced the feature in iMessage.