Tuesday, 7 June 2011

How to Keep Your Job

Emails, eh?  You reply to your friend with a sarcastic comment mocking some corporate announcement that Dilbert would have found extreme, and suddenly everyone in the company is reading your wit and wisdom.

The great thing about emails is that they provide a way to communicate instantly with lots of people.  The trouble with emails is that they provide a way to communicate instantly with lots of people.  In the days when you wrote a memo and put it in the internal mail, it probably wouldn't arrive until tomorrow, and you could always get it back from the out tray if you needed to stop it.  Or even if you thought of something to add after writing it.

Well, here's a handy hint - you can do exactly that with an email.  Remember I was talking about email the other day and how to set up rules to sort them into folders?  Well, I was.  You can set up a rule that slows down your email to a more human pace.  Let me show you how to do it.

Start by setting up a new rule.  In Outlook, click on Tools, and then select Rules and Alerts.


Right now, click on New Rule, and it'll give you a list of ready made rules, none of which do what you want to do.  That's to put a delay on outgoing mails, remember?  But right down at the bottom of the list there's a thing about starting from a blank rule, and the thing you are looking for - check messages after sending.  Select that one, and click on Next.




Right - now you get the following screen - lots of possible conditions.  You could think about setting it to put in a delay if you choose to send a message to Company - All, perhaps.  But you might still reply to a career-challenging individual by accident, or some weasel who forwards your message to the world.  Remember Claire Swire?  Yes, that Claire Swire.  So think twice, okay?  And apply this rule to all your outgoing emails - scroll right down to the very bottom of the list and choose "On this machine only".  Hit Next.



Again, there are lots of things you could do - but the thing we want is down at the bottom of the list again.  Choose "Defer Delivery by a number of minutes".  Then in the box at the bottom, click on the link where it says a number of  and type in 5.  If you don't realise that you have screwed up in five minutes, you probably aren't going to realise in 60.  Oh, go on then, put in 10, 15, whatever you want. See if I care.  



You could stop there, if you want.  Click on Finish, and go home.  Next time you press Send and then think "Ooops!", you can stop worrying - it's sitting in your out-box and you can grab it back, edit it, delete it, whatever you want.  I've saved your backside from corporate hell, and you owe me a beer, or suitable non-alcoholic refreshment if this is more appropriate in your jurisdiction.

Still here?  You want the last bit?  OK, suppose you really, really can't wait five minutes.  What a sad life you must live, to be sure.  Take a break, smell the flowers, gaze into the distance for a few minutes and let your thoughts drift away.  You'll feel better for it.

Right then.  Exceptions.  You really want it to go now, you can't wait five minutes because you have promised your boss to send something right now, and she is waiting, drumming her fingers on the desk and wondering what has gone wrong with the email system.  Before her blood pressure rises from a simmer to a rolling boil, I'll tell you.

Click on the thing that says "except if the body contains specific words".  Click on the link where it says specific words and type in your secret code for making things go straight away.


Like what?  You have to be a bit careful.  Don't type something like "Urgent" or "Priority" because you probably get lots of emails with words like that in them.  You can be dull, dull, dull and type something like "For immediate transmission".  I like to say "Priority Green" - it doesn't mean anything particularly, but you can stick it at the bottom of your signature file next to the corporate thingy about saving the planet by not printing out this email, where it doesn't look out of place.  If anyone notices it, they probably think it is some environmental initiative which they missed, and that you are obviously a very virtuous person.



Last of all, give your new rule a name, something like Delay Outgoing Emails, something like that and click on Finish.


From now on, any email you send has a life-saving delay built into it.  You can get round it if you really need to, but I shouldn't bother - five minutes won't usually be noticed.  The crucial thing is that you have put in a delay longer than the Ohnosecond.

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