I’ve talked before about emailing yourself in the future. This is a way to send a reminder to yourself in the future without having to be tied to your calendar. My reason for looking into this previously is that while I am on the field I don’t depend on a calendar as much for things as I do when I am home traveling. This is because I have a routine on the field that rarely changes or needs a calendar to control.
Today I heard a podcast that gave several reasons to use deferred email solutions. I wanted to point out some of the reasons he gave and see how it applies to missionaries. As well, I want to give you a list of other services that help you send yourself an email in the future.
You can answer an email now even though the person does not need the information until a later date. For example, if you wanted to give a reminder to a friend about an event you can write the email now, but schedule it to deliver a day or two before the event as a reminder. It can also be used to confirm a meeting with a pastor. If you scheduled a meeting several months in advance you can used deferred email to send a follow-up confirmation a few weeks before the meeting. If you CC yourself then you too will be reminded of the details of the meeting.
Forward an email to yourself that you want to deal with at a later time. You need to provide further information to a church, but they asked you to send the information at a specific time. Go ahead and write the email now and schedule it to deliver when the church has requested it.
If your life is wrapped up in your calendar you can schedule to-do items for the day they are due. However, if you don’t need to look at your calendar every day it may be better to send a to-do reminder to yourself via email in the future. Certain calendar programs (Google Calender is one) can send you an email reminder a certain number of minutes, hours or days before the item is due as a reminder. In those cases you can use the calendar application to provide the future email reminder.
Travel documents can easily get lost in a full inbox. While you can search through your past emails to find the information you need, you could also use deferred email to send you all your documents on the morning you need them.
If you use a desktop client like Outlook or Thunderbird you can schedule future email delivery by settings in the application or via plugins/extensions. For Outlook you can look at Options|Delivery Options (from the email composition dialog) and schedule when you want the email to be delivered. Thunderbird requires a plugin such as Defer or Send Later.
While it sounds appealing to use your desktop client for deferred email delivery, you need to be aware that the mail program has to be turned on at the time you have the message scheduled to send. If you don’t then the message will send when you turn that particular computer on. You have to hope that you open your email before the message delivery becomes too late to be useful.
A better option is to use a web service such as FutureMe, NudgeMail or FollowUp. These each allow you to send an email to yourself with the information. Not all of the services let you send deferred email to other users (only to yourself). They also have various ways to snooze the message to a later date if you get it in the future but find that the time is not good for dealing with the information.
If you are a Gmail user you can look at the BoomerangGmail plugin. This bridges the gap between a web service and your email client. Since your email client in the case of Gmail is the website you don’t have to worry about the client being open to deliver your message when necessary. One of the nice things about Boomerang is that it pulls the message out of your inbox and redelivers it to you on the right date. This keeps you from having multiple copies of the same message.
What I would love to have is an program that I can install on my own mail server to do what the web clients offer. This keeps me in complete control of the ecosystem. I don’t have to worry about the web service shutting down before my message gets delivered. If you are sending messages to yourself within a short period of time (up to a few months), then you probably won’t have to worry about losing email. But if you are dependent on a service to deliver your message in 2 years, then you have no assurance that the service will be around then. I realize that I may change mail servers within that period of time too, but then it would be my own fault that I did not get an important email.
How would you use a service or tool like deferred email?