One of my bosses has a habit of telling me to remind him about something in a few days. Rather than ranting about why I have to be his psychic RAM or worrying about it, I’ve developed a way that let’s me follow-up with him without having to remember to do it. It works like a champ.
- Draft an email containing the information you need to remind someone about. Unless they specifically ask for a phone call, correspond via email.
- Save the aforementioned email as a draft. Do not send it.
- Run to Backpack. Create a reminder to “Send draft email to [person].”
- Forget that you were supposed to remind that person of whatever you were supposed to.
- When you get the reminder from Backpack, hit send on the email.
The end result? You look like you’re on top of things without having to actively be on top of things.
Why this works:
You write the email while it’s fresh, so it contains the information it needs to. Since it’s done, you can stop thinking about it.
The reminder, if you use it correctly, gets rid of the psychic tag of remembering to do it. You can completely space it and still get it done.
The keyword here is: Focus. Since you’re not mentally juggling something, you can devote more of yourself to other things that do require your attention.
More focus, all things considered, makes you more productive.
Don’t have Backpack? Check out my review of Backpack if you want more information, or just jump here and try it for free if you’ve heard enough.
It’s been a nice, productive week at my new job. I’m working on a lot of projects that I’m looking forward to talking about, but I’ve got drill this weekend and am going on a trip at the end of next week. I’ll not make any promises…but I did want to give a quick tip that I’ve been using a lot here recently. I’m sure there may be other techniques, but this one’s FREE! and really easy.
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Or you could eliminate 3 steps by using this:
Francis Wade says
I use LetterMeLater.com to help me send email at a later time.
Also, Outlook can be used to send delayed email by simply specifying the delivery time. It doesn’t help much if your computer isn’t online at the moment of delivery, however!
Al at 7P says
I never knew about Backpack until I read your article. It looks pretty nice since it’s also suited for a collaborative environment.
Al at 7Ps last blog post..The Hero with a Thousand Jobs
Andre Kibbe says
You might want to create a shared Google Calendar, adding your boss’ email address, then letting him know about the calendar. That way you can create a reminder the minute you’re asked to, and gCal will email the reminder at the set time (e.g. 10 minutes before an event). It also allows him, or you, to review any entries well before the reminder time.
It’s often easier to get the technically non-savvy to embrace a Google solution to a problem, due to trust and brand recognition, than something like a 37 Signals app. Of course, you’re the one using Backpack, not the boss, but the familiarity of a Google app might encourage him to use it directly and rely on you less.
How is this good advice? You’re spending time drafting e-mails all the time, while most of the time you won’t even need to remind people at all. So you’ve just wasted time on an e-mail that you’re never going to send.
That’s a great little system. I’m going to look into this Backpack because my hubby is always asking me to remind him of things. But what about reminding myself? I’m the big juggler of tasks and responsibilities in the family.
@zbelljegger: I tried futureme.org a while back and I didn’t like how I didn’t have a copy of the email message (of course, you could add yourself in the “to” line). What I like about the Backpack method is that it gives me a few reminders – the draft sitting in my mail, and the reminder sitting in Backpack. As I’m doing other tasks, I see them sitting there, and it reinforces that I don’t have to remember it because the system has me covered. Futureme.org may well work for some people, though – so I really appreciate you pointing it out.
@Francis: Thanks for pointing out Lettermelater! I haven’t tried that one and will give it a shot.
I haven’t used Outlook in a long time – 1) I’m a Mac user, and 2) it was always too much for me – but that feature never really worked well for me for the reason you specified. I went from having to remember to send the email to having to remember to be online when I send the email.
@Al: Backpack really does shine in a collaborative environment. It’s right not the 800-pound gorilla that other systems have to beat for us.
@Andre: I’m going to give a longer response to this one in its own post. I’ve learned the hard way that trying to get bosses to adopt your system takes a good long while of proven results – as much of a pain as it can be, for time-in, time-out measurements, I’ve found it’s better to wait for them to come to you. And plus, there are some advantages of keeping the boss out of the box. Stay tuned for more on this one.
@Sebastian: Your work requirements may be different than some of the rest of us. On the first tack, it only takes me about 2 minutes to do what I’ve recommended – hardly all the time. It happens infrequently enough (at most, a couple of times per week) to not be that much of a drain but it’s important enough that it still requires attention. On the second tack, this particular boss will forget and not necessarily care that it screws you because you were supposed to remind him. If you want something done, you’ve got to be proactive with this particular gentlemen. So I do indeed need to remind him, and I do send the email. Both creates the need for a solution. Obviously, some other people have this issue, judging by the responses.
You’re right, though – if you’re not going to do something anyways, don’t create a system that prompts you to do it.
@Kelly: Backpack really shines on reminding yourself. You can have the reminders sent to yourself at anytime you choose via either email or SMS (or both). Receiving the text messages by phone has been particularly handy.
Seriously, give it a shot. It’s free and it might make a lot of difference.
Amanda K. says
I haven’t looked at backpack. I have tried Sandy and Remember the Milk and both do similar things, it seems. We use Novell at work and it has delayed delivery of email which works fine, at least the times I remember to use it.
The other thing you can do (if you are an Outlook-er; i bet in other systems this works, too), is to check “don’t send before” under options, and pick the time you want the email to go out.
I did this in order to follow up with training participants one week and one month after they attended a training I led. What this created was a lot of “Wow! Thanks for following up with me!” comments. Little did they know that I had written those emails the day that we had the training….