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Delaying Delivery of Messages in Outlook

There are two methods of delaying the delivery of a message in Microsoft Outlook. The first method is activated each time you want to use it. It’s easy to find and use, but you may never have noticed it. The second method is a little more complicated but allows you to set a delay for all outgoing mail.

Why?

Why on earth would you want to delay an e-mail message? There are several possible reasons:

  • You want to time your message to coincide with another scheduled event.
  • You want the message to be received when you know the recipient will be available (or unavailable).
  • You have information that cannot be sent until after a specified time or date, but you’ll be busy when that time comes around and you don’t want to forget.
  • You want people to think you’re working late.

Whatever the reason, these are all examples of one-off circumstances. There is another reason you might want to delay every e-mail message you send, and that is to keep your foot out of your mouth.

Some people are real hotheads. They tend to shoot off replies without considering how they will be received. Unfortunately, once the message has left your Outbox, there’s no reliable way to “un-ring the bell”. A short delay can give you the time you need to think about what you’ve done. You get the satisfaction of clicking Send, without the instant commitment.

Along these same lines, how many times have you clicked Send only to realize that you forgot a point you were going to make, or, even more common, you forgot the attachment you were going to send? (I never do that, but you might.)

Delay a Single Message

The process to delay a single message is pretty-much the same in all versions of Outlook, though some of the buttons are in different places. I’m going to use Outlook 2010 for this demonstration.

Begin by composing a new message. Type as much or as little of it as you want, but, at some point before you hit Send, click the little icon at the bottom right of the Tags group of the Message ribbon.

You’ll get a dialog box with a whole bunch of interesting options. The one we’re interested in is labeled Do not deliver before. Check the box next to this label and fill in the date and time.

Click the Close button, finish your message, and click Send. The message will sit in your Outbox until the specified time.

Things to note:

  • This only works if you are connected to an Exchange Server (or hosted Exchange service). If your company uses POP3 accounts, this won’t work.
  • If you want to modify the message before it is sent, go to your Outbox and open the message. Make whatever changes you want and then click Send. If you open the message and do not click Send, it will sit in the Outbox forever.
  • To cancel sending of the message, just delete it from the Outbox.

Add a Delay to Every Message

This process uses Outlook rules. If you’re not familiar with Rules, don’t worry: I’ll walk you through the process.

  • From the main Outlook window, click the Rules button on the Home ribbon.
  • Click Manage Rules and Alerts.
  • Click New Rule…
  • Select Apply rule on messages I send and then click Next.
  • You don’t need to select any conditions, so click Next. You’ll receive a warning that the rule will be applied to every message you send. Click Yes.
  • Check the box next to defer delivery by a number of minutes.
  • In the bottom section of the window, click the underlined “a number of”.
  • I find that one minute is sufficient, but you can set this to whatever you want. Click OK.
  • The bottom section of the window should now say, “Apply this rule after I send the message / defer delivery by 1 minutes”. Click Next.

Here, you have an option. Sometimes you really don’t want to wait for a minute to send a message. If you’re on the phone with someone and you need to send them a file, you don’t want to have to entertain them for a minute while you wait for the message to send. I like to add an exception to the rule here that send immediately if the message is marked with high importance.

  • Check the box next to except if it is marked as importance.
  • In the bottom half of the window, click the underlined word “importance”.
  • Select “High” and click OK.
  • The bottom section of the window should now say, “Apply this rule after I send the message / defer delivery by 1 minutes / except if it is marked high importance”. Click Next.

Now, we’ll finish up. Name your rule (something like “Deferred Delivery”) and click Finish.

Now, every message you send will sit in the Outbox for one minute before being sent.

Things to note:

  • Anyone may use this method. You don’t need an Exchange Server for it to work.
  • If you want to modify the message before it is sent, go to your Outbox and open the message. Make whatever changes you want and then click Send. If you open the message and do not click Send, it will sit in the Outbox forever.
  • To cancel sending of the message, just delete it from the Outbox.
  • Setting this rule prohibits you from setting delays on individual messages. If you try to use the first method described in this article, it will not work. You will get no error or warning, but the message will be sent in one minute no matter what you choose. This rule takes precedence over the Do not deliver before setting.

One Response

  1. […] If you’re the type of person who forgets to proofread, check out our companion blog, Maximize!, for a tip on delaying outbound messages in Outlook. […]

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