Do You Schedule Email Delivery?


I’m curious, readers: how much attention do you pay to the timestamp on the emails you read?

A number of web-based services now exist that allow you to schedule when an email will be sent. Some of these include:

  • RightInbox, a browser extension for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, allows you to schedule emails, track opens, and set reminders in Gmail. (A free account allows you to schedule 10 emails a month.)

  • Boomerang for Gmail, an extnesion for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, also allows you to schedule emails and send reminders in Gmail.

  • LetterMeLater is a free, web-based email scheduling tool that’s been around for several years. You schedule emails using their web interface.

  • Thunderbird users can add the Send Later extension.

  • Outlook now includes a mail scheduling feature.

I know that many of us, myself included, sometimes pause before sending an email, preferring to wait until another moment. That’s one reason such scheduling tools exist. As Amy said in her review of Boomerang:

As Jason wrote recently in his post about worst email practices, responding too soon might seem rude. At other times, as Nels’ colleague indicated, sometimes too quick a response (or a response at an odd hour of the day or night!) suggests a greater availability than we’d like to communicate.

I don’t deny, either, that it is often efficient to pre-schedule certain messages, like reminders about an upcoming event or deadline (though if you’re regularly sending to a large group it’s better to use a newsletter tool like Mailchimp).

But what caught my attention recently were these reasons listed on the Boomerang site for why you might want to schedule an email:

Communicate with people in different time zones
Send emails when they are most likely to be read
Write emails when you are free and have them sent at an appropriate time

The third point about an appropriate time might make sense if you don’t want your students to know that you’re online at 2:00 am. But I’m curious about what the first two items suggest about the state of email usage today.

To me, such concerns miss the whole point of why email was an improvement over the telephone: it’s asynchronous. It shouldn’t matter what time zone the recipient is in, because the message can be read when it’s convenient for that person, rather than interrupting someone. (After all, you can only schedule the delivery of the message, not the actual reading of it.) But if you assume that many people read emails on mobile devices throughout the day, and sometimes don’t respond adequately if they’re not at a desk, then maybe some emails should wait for business hours.

So I wonder. . . are we being too self-conscious? Or have people’s mobile habits made the asynchronicity of email a thing of the past?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

[Creative Commons licensed image from Flickr user Jamiesrabbits.]

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