send-button-300Sending email is arguably the most popular Outlook task, one you learned as soon as you installed it. What a lot of Microsoft Outlook users haven’t learned, though, is how many options exist for maximizing outgoing emails. Before you hit that Send button, consider whether any of these features might help you get more out of that outgoing email.

Unless otherwise noted below, all instructions and screenshots are for Microsoft Office 2010 for Windows.

Delivery and Read Receipts

While Delivery and Read Receipts don’t give you the airtight proof that Certified Mail gives for snail mail (and depend on the receiving server’s cooperation), they can at least provide some confirmation that your message has reached the intended recipient. For individual messages, the receipts are found on the Options tab under Tracking.

You can set up your email account to request delivery and/or read receipts by default. In Outlook 2010, go to the File tab and click on Options, then click on Mail and scroll down to Tracking Options and check one or both boxes as shown below:

In version 2007, go to Tools | Options, then click Email Options at the top:

… and then click Tracking Options:

At this point, you’ll see a dialog box that allows you to set all your Tracking Options:


In either version, you can set not only the default receipts for your outgoing messages, but also which folder to store your receipts in and how Outlook should respond when others request receipts on emails they’ve sent you.

Send a poll

Ever want to take a poll via email but didn’t want to be stuck counting up the votes? The good news is, you don’t have to sign up for one of those online poll sites to get the result you need. You can use Outlook email instead.

Start a new email, but before you send it, click the drop-down under Voting and Tracking Options.

You can either use the default choices available in the drop-down or you can type in your own using the Custom option. Just remember to put a semicolon between each choice so they’ll appear as separate voting buttons:

When your recipients get your email, they’ll see a Vote button on the left end of the Ribbon. To vote, they can click on that drop-down, make their choice, and either send the response immediately or add some text to their reply email:


As you get responses back, the subject line of the reply emails will show each person’s vote. You can also open your original outgoing email and check the Responses tab to see the latest tally of responses:

Send Later a.k.a Delay Delivery

If you think services like Slydial are pretty clever, you might appreciate the usefulness of this next Outlook feature. Say you need to send a response to someone before the end of the day, but you know you’re going to be too busy to get into any email back-and-forth (or, heaven forbid, a phone conversation) after you send the email. Or, you want to delay the email to ensure that it arrives in the recipient’s email box as a just-in-time reminder. You can actually compose the email now and have Outlook hold it in your Outbox until a certain time or even a later date, even if you’re not actually at your computer. (You do, however, have to have Outlook up and running and your internet connection active.)

Once you’ve composed your email, go to the Options tab and click Delay Delivery.


You’ll be taken to the Message Options dialog box. Under Delivery Options, check the “Do not deliver before:” check box and put in the date and time you want the email delivered:

Flag for follow-up

If you’re sending someone an email, chances are you’re either expecting a response or need to perform some task yourself afterward.

But you don’t have to set up a task to remind yourself (or the recipient) to follow up. You can build that reminder into the outgoing email itself using the Follow-Up feature.

To set up a reminder for yourself before hitting Send, go to the Options section on the Message tab and click the drop-down under Follow Up to get this menu:


(Note: If you’re using IMAP email rather than POP3, you may see fewer choices.)

You can add any of the pre-configured reminders (Today, Tomorrow, etc.), which will place the email in your Task list as a reminder. If you need to custom-configure a reminder, click Custom:

Under Flag for Me, you can customize the Start Date, Due Date, and Reminder date/time.

Underneath that, though, is one of my favorite features: Flag for Recipients. If your recipient is an Outlook user, you can set a pop-up reminder to nag that person as well. (Obviously, some of this feature’s effectiveness depends whether your recipient’s email server support this feature.)

Make your emails do more work

These tricks (along with re-directing your email replies to your assistant) can help you spend less time managing your emails and doing manual follow-up tasks.


7 responses to “4 Tricks to Make Outgoing Emails Work Harder”

  1. Deborah,

    This is an awesome post! One thing I did not know about…and am kicking myself cause I didn’t know cause it could have saved me a LOT of time…was the send later feature. This is a really great post…thanks for sharing

  2. Paul Burton says:

    The Flag For Follow-up function is one of the most powerful in Outlook. If you do use IMAP, you likely won’t be able to set a reminder For Me.

    A good work around for that is to either CC yourself on that email (or set Outlook to CC yourself on all emails, then just delete those you don’t need to track after they arrive back into your Inbox). Then, when the e-mail comes back to your Inbox, you can flag it for follow-up. One additional feature is to add the Due Date (aka Flag date) as a column in your Inbox. That allows you to sort by the flag dates you set giving you a dynamic to-do list right in your e-mail. More on those tricks in my book QuietSpacing – Second Edition – Outlook 2010 (Amazon).

  3. Giuliano Chicco says:

    My favorite Outlook trick is affectionately called the “Oh Sh*t” feature. You set all your outgoing mail to delay for one minute. This gives you one minute to correct the typo you notice just as you hit the Send key, the Reply All you selected in error or it gives you a minute to repent and not send that flame you just drafted. One minute is a de minimus delay but in certain circumstances it can save your reputation.

    • I just wish Outlook had that feature I heard described on Gmail a while back – the one that supposedly kept users from sending emails while drunk or otherwise too stupid to send something coherent. Sort of like a breathalyzer {sp?} for email.

  4. LCSawatzky says:

    Hi Deborah, I don’t see the ‘Flag for Recipients’ option on my flagging screen (and yes, the recipient is an Outlook user). Any ideas?

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