Forcing restraint in email: message delays and reminders

2012-03-01 18:11:00

A warning message in your email template: be careful what you write

Last week I made a few resolutions for myself regarding communicating at work. These resolutions were reaffirmed today, in a meeting with my manager and are now stated thusly:

In order to help myself stick to these resolutions I've made a few configuration changes to my Outlook email client. These are by no means guarantees that I will improve, but they serve as stern reminders that my mindset needs changing. 

Every email I start writing, whether it's a reply or a new message, is filled with a big warning template asking me "Are you really using email? Wouldn't it be better to phone?". It also reminds me to "Watch your phrasing! Are you CCing people?". I couldn't find a way in Outlook to set up a template or standard email to do this, so I've adjusted my email signature to serve the purpose. 

I have also set up two filtering rules to delay my outgoing messages. With many things to How-to Geek's 'Preventing OhNo! after sending emails'.

  1. Apply rule to mail I send: assigned to category "CHECKED", delay delivery for 2 minutes and stop processing rules.
  2. Apply rule to mail I send: assign mail to category "NEED TO CHECK" and delay delivery for 60 minutes, except if mail is assigned to category "CHECKED", or if message is invitation or update.


The second rule determines that every single email i send will be delayed for an hour. This will prevent many foot-in-mouth situations and will also force me to review my message. Each of these messages gets classified as "NEED TO CHECK", unless I specifically go out of my way to set the message to "CHECKED". All messages marked as "CHECKED" will be delayed for only two minutes, after which they'll go on their way to the addressee.

I will also add an hourly reminder to my agenda to prompt myself to review all pending emails.

My manager indicated upfront that these changes will drastically lower my throughput at the office. Part of the reason why I'm so damn fast with our ticket queue is because my over-reliance on email: fix an issue, inform client through email, BOOM! next ticket! I have to admit that I felt a few pangs of OCD at this realization, because I always worry about our ticket queue. We're already behind on our work, so if I'm going to get slower we'll only get behind further. Luckily my manager takes this for granted, as she feels that fixing my communications issues is more important than our current workload. Wow!

I'm quite hopeful that these measures will aid me in improving my communications at work. Right now I still need external stimuli to practice enryo


Sadly there is no way of implementing the second set of precautions in Apple's The software does not support rules on outgoing email without the support of Mail ActOn and even then it only allows such things as filing the sent message. It will not allow delays or forcing messages to be saved as drafts. 

Because of this I tried to give Thunderbird a shot, but I still hate that piece of software. I can't help it. Alternatively I think Sparrow looks great, but I don't think it has the options I'm looking for. Even Entourage 2008 doesn't appear to support the kind of rules I'm using in Outlook 2003 at the office ;_; 

In the end I implemented my 'helpers' in by:

  1. Adding a default signature, just like the one described above. 
  2. Remapping shift-command-d (Send message) to save the message as a draft. tags: , , ,

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