7 Ways to Write More Effective Email – Part 5 of 7

Automate your Email Follow up 

Do you find that many of the emails you send require you to also follow them up some time in the future? 

One way to keep track of these is to flag them for follow up so you don’t have to rely on your memory. As you’re composing the message, simply click the follow up icon and select when you wish to follow up. However, simply flagging a message is often not enough - you probably need to also add a reminder for a specific date and time. A flagged message still requires you to chase after it at some time in the future whereas a flagged message with a reminder comes back to you at the nominated date and time – in the meantime you can safely forget about it until the appropriate time.  

You can now keep track of all these emails that require follow up in the For Follow Up folder, located  under Search Folders in your folder list (if you can’t see the For Follow Up folder, click here to learn how to set it up). This folder will show you any email you have flagged for follow up, regardless of which folder it is in (except Deleted Items) – it’s a search folder and searches for flagged messages wherever they are. You can sort these flagged messages by start date, due date or whatever other criteria you wish. 

And now, here’s comes the part where you can automate at least the first step of that follow up! Many times the reason you need to follow up an email is that the person you sent it to has not got back to you. So, you can set a reminder for them, as well as for yourself, in the original outgoing message! This way, that’s one less phone call or email you have to make and the first step of follow up is automated. 

Now, I recommend that you seek permission of the recipient before using this feature. You could say something like “it’s very important that we deal with this issue by the due date, so how about I put a reminder on this message for both you and I so we don’t miss it, OK?”. Once you get their permission, you can reasonably assume that you can do the same again in future whenever it is appropriate. Maybe even let them know in the body of your message that you’ve added a reminder. 

When you think about the number of times you follow up emails you’ve sent over the course of a year, this idea could save you lots of time and effort manually following up when you could do it automatically instead. 

Why not try this out with a colleague sometime this week and see what a difference it makes?