Help me stay on top of email threads
July 28, 2010 6:59 PM   Subscribe

I stay on top of my tasks/projects pretty well, except in one case: when the project needs a reply to an email to move forward and I don't get a reply. Is there a simple way for me to address this?

For example, is there a way that I could get a reminder if the email does not have a reply within X days? I send a lot of these kinds of emails, so manually making a reminder in my calendar for each one seems cumbersome. I'm open to other ideas.

Additional info: I use Gmail as my email host and have a split inbox with starred items (for priority response) at the top. I'm generally on top of labeling/archiving/deleting. I use OneNote for organization.
posted by emilyd22222 to Technology (20 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Create a label called "waiting for response." Then it'll be easy enough to pull up all the emails with that label once a day and quickly skim them.
posted by COD at 7:20 PM on July 28, 2010


I have a GMail label called @waiting. I go through those every day. I move everything I'm waiting on into that folder.
posted by circular at 7:20 PM on July 28, 2010


BTW, I got my idea from this video. Worth your time if you use email for work and haven't developed a full system yet.
posted by circular at 7:22 PM on July 28, 2010


Put "response requested by XX/XX/XXXX" in the email. I used to think that was sort of rude and pushy, but people need to know when items are due. It helps them prioritize their work. If you need an item by a certain day, then let them know that.

Then you can just filter it base on "response requested by". If you get fancy with your filters you can look for items that are overdue or due today.
posted by 26.2 at 7:30 PM on July 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Have you tried any of the Google Labs modules? The "Superstars" one is great for this, it gives you multiple 'star' icons instead of just the yellow star. I use a yellow star for things I need to reply to, a blue star for things I am waiting for a reponse on, and a red exclamation point for things that need urgent attention. A glance at my inbox lets me see everything I need to do, and you can search by star if you need to.
posted by oulipian at 8:20 PM on July 28, 2010


These are all great ideas. My holy grail would be something I wouldn't have to remember to check, but it doesn't sound like something like that exists.

Question about the labels- you can't label outgoing mail as you send it, right? Do you go back into your sent mail folder and label it?

Also, if I was a supervisor, I'd definitely go with 26.2's idea, but unfortunately, I am a grad student peon depending on a number of very busy faculty.
posted by emilyd22222 at 8:29 PM on July 28, 2010


Further to 26.2, what I do (especially to my boss) is decide which course of action is likely best and say in the email "I will [do this] if I don't hear back by Tuesday night". It's a little brusque but I've learn over the years that my boss needs a little tough love. If he really disagrees with the likely action I've chosen he'll respond right away.

However I am not a peon.
posted by intermod at 8:36 PM on July 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Question about the labels- you can't label outgoing mail as you send it, right?

Gmail lets you create filters that apply labels to outgoing mail, if that helps. For example, you can set up a filter that applies labels based on the "To:" field.
posted by oulipian at 8:39 PM on July 28, 2010


2nd intermod. Tact it up a bit "so unless I'm otherwise (directed)(advised)(etc) by time/date I'll go ahead and (action)
posted by KneeDeep at 8:40 PM on July 28, 2010 [2 favorites]


Oh! Also, I realized a while back that you can use operators like "||" (or) when setting up filters in Gmail - for example, you can set up a filter such as:

Matches: from: boss1@gmail.com || boss2@gmail.com || boss3@gmail.com
Do this: Apply label "Bossy"

So if the e-mail is from any of those addresses, the filter will be applied. I haven't seen this feature documented anywhere, I just tried it and it worked. I assume "&&" (and) works as well. This is a bit of a tangent, but you might find it useful.
posted by oulipian at 8:45 PM on July 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you have to use the google webmail interface or can you set up Outlook as your mail client? In my last job, I set reminders on my emails to remind me to follow up with my boss/coworkers/suppliers/clients. I'm spacing out a bit right now on how it worked as I only use a Mac at home and it was a Windows machine but I would imagine that most non-webmail email clients would have that function?
posted by 1000monkeys at 9:02 PM on July 28, 2010


2nd intermod. Tact it up a bit "so unless I'm otherwise (directed)(advised)(etc) by time/date I'll go ahead and (action)

I have heard this called a "Consent Memo," meaning I assume you consent unless you respond explicitly with an objection. I have used this technique quite often myself.
posted by charlie don't surf at 9:06 PM on July 28, 2010


To answer your question about labels, just drag the @waiting or whatever label onto your draft email before you send it.
posted by stratastar at 9:07 PM on July 28, 2010


Blind copy yourself on the email and put it in your priority box until you get a response.
posted by amro at 9:08 PM on July 28, 2010


Put "response requested by XX/XX/XXXX" in the email. I used to think that was sort of rude and pushy, but people need to know when items are due. It helps them prioritize their work. If you need an item by a certain day, then let them know that.

Agreed on due dates helping, but not on that form, which is rude and pushy. I would instead write something like "Could you please reply by XX/XX/XXXX? Thanks!"
posted by grouse at 10:09 PM on July 28, 2010


Sign up for a remember the milk account, create a reminder for x days in the future and install the RTM plugin for gmail
posted by Mick at 7:26 AM on July 29, 2010


forgot to link the RTM plugin: http://www.rememberthemilk.com/services/gmail/
posted by Mick at 7:26 AM on July 29, 2010


This sounds like a great feature, that a lot of people would probably use. You should suggest a Gmail Labs feature. Maybe something that combines many of the above suggested workarounds? A filter that automatically puts a label (waiting?) on any email you have sent that doesn't have a reply in X days? Then, you can just plan to go through that list of emails labeled "waiting" daily/hourly/whatever. Currently you can filter for emails that X has sent or has been sent to Y, but there's no reply-time element that you can filter by, as far as I can tell.
posted by sa3z at 7:53 AM on July 29, 2010


I send a lot of these kinds of emails, so manually making a reminder in my calendar for each one seems cumbersome.

If you have to do this a lot, then that suggests a larger problem you need to address and not necessarily something technology can solve. I'm a postdoc and have to prod people to respond to things (less frequently than you do). My todo manager (todoist) has a nice feature where I can add relative dates (the drop down calendar in most todo/calendar apps annoys me to no end). It also integrates with gmail and can be configured to send email reminders.

So let's say I send an email to Evan asking to review a manuscript. I can quickly add a note to my todoist (within Firefox) that says "Did Evan reply?" and for the deadline I just type +21 (i.e. 3 weeks). Perhaps something like that might help in the meantime?
posted by special-k at 10:17 AM on July 29, 2010


This can be a bugbear for me too.

Followupthen has a service I kind of like. You can send an automated reminder by including time-interval@followupthen.com (where time interval is 4days, Aug13, 2weeks or something like that) as a cc: or bcc: on the original message.

Works well for me, although I almost always use the bcc: option it to remind myself to check up on it as the robo-reminder to the original recipient can seem kind of obnoxious.
posted by Joad at 10:46 PM on July 29, 2010


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