six reasons to 'forward to the future'



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ONE OF THE MOST USEFUL but least used features of some e-mail programs, including Microsoft Outlook, is the ability to send and forward e-mail to a specific time and date in the future.

I'll tell you why in a minute, but first I'll tell you how. In Outlook, open a new message and click the Options button on the toolbar. Under "Delivery options," click the "Do not deliver before" box and choose a date and time. Click close and address and send e-mail normally.

After you click the "Send" button, Outlook puts your mail into its Outbox. It will sit there until the time and date specified and, if Outlook is running, be sent normally. If Outlook isn't running, it will sit there until the next time Outlook is launched.

So why would anybody want to do this? Here are six reasons to forward or send e-mail to the future.

1. Send reminders to yourself. If you get an e-mail from your spouse that says "we're having dinner with the Joneses three weeks from Saturday," what are you supposed to do with that information? Simply forward the e-mail to yourself so that it arrives a day or two before the event. You can forward and forget it, knowing you'll be reminded again when you need to be.

2. Send reminders to others. If you have co-workers, family members or others who don't follow up on requests or who let things fall through the cracks, send them your request and copy yourself. When your copy comes back, forward it to yourself — or to them — in the future as a reminder.

3. Memorize things. Let's say you want to remember something difficult — such as the original name of the city of Los Angeles (which is "El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora la Reina de los Angeles de la Porciuncula," which means The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of the little church that St. Francis rebuilt). You can learn it now, but in three weeks you probably won't remember it anymore. So forward it to yourself in the future to quiz yourself. If you still don't remember, memorize it again and forward it again. You'll eventually retain that information permanently. (Note: don't use this technique to memorize personal information, such as your PIN numbers, passwords, or social security number — you don't want this information traveling over the public Internet.)

4. Smart procrastination. Some things are more urgent than others. If there's something you want to make sure you do — just not right now — forward a reminder to your future self.

5. Keep your inbox empty. Are you one of those people who reads e-mails, then leaves them in your inbox as a reminder? Next thing you know, there are 2,365 messages in your inbox. That makes the task of finding things very time consuming and defeats the purpose of keeping reminders in the first place. You'll be far more efficient, productive, and relaxed if you empty your inbox every day. Create folders in Outlook or on your computer, and file e-mails that you're keeping for reference. (Use an indexed search tool like Google Desktop to find things quickly.) Place very time-specific reminders into your Calendar. And for everything else, choose a date in the future to deal with them and forward accordingly.

6. Separate work and personal e-mail according to time. If a friend sends you a wacky video while you're at work, it's probably not a good idea to sit there watching "TV" and laughing while you're on the job. Forward the e-mail to the weekend and enjoy it on your own time. Likewise, if you get something work-related on Sunday, forward it to Monday and deal with it when you're being paid to.

PS: Like the Personal Tech Pipeline newsletter? Then you'll LOVE the blog. I also recommend that you subscribe to the blog's RSS feed and the RSS feed for the site.

Author: Mike Elgan
editor of Personal Tech Pipeline
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