Thursday, October 20, 2011

Forget Flagging Emails - Follow Up Then

I've recently been introduced to a great tool that's helped me in managing projects and fits perfectly into my personal workflow of how I deal with emails and keep on top of things where I need to make sure some action gets taken.

In the past, I flagged emails. First in Outlook and then a few years later using "Stars" in Gmail. It works pretty well. After I sent an email, if I wanted to make sure that the person that I sent the email to actually did something with it, I would go into my sent items folder and Star the email. Once a week or so, I would cycle through my Starred items and see if there were any messages I needed to follow up on…

Enter Followupthen.com. Before I go on. I don't know the people who developed this product and I have no affiliation with them other than being a big fan of their service!

Basically, you can send an email to 1week@followupthen.com, 3hours@followupthen.com, nextmonth@followupthen.com or any other description of time you can think of. After that set amount of time, you'll get a reply/forward from Followupthen (with the same subject line so that message threading works correctly) which basically brings that conversation right back into your inbox.

There's a few reasons I like this. But before that, I'll illustrate the two different ways that I use this service.

If I'm sending an email and I want to basically remind myself to follow up a week later (if I don't hear back from the recipient) it's as easy as BCCing 1week@followupthen.com. No extra action is required. I don't need to look up the email after sending it and mark it. The recipient has no idea about it and I can feel confident that if I don't hear back in a week, that email conversation will magically pop back into my inbox for me to follow up on.

The other way I've used the service is when I receive an email that I don't necessarily want to write back to immediately. Whether it's a good practice or not, I'm a big fan of a clean inbox. So when I get those emails, if I want to remind myself to reply 2 days later, I simply forward it to 2days@followupthen.com and then archive it. Again, it fits right into my workflow, which is what makes the service so useful.

The one downside or questionable part of this is that I am sending some of my emails to this service. I'm careful that nothing with even the mildest amount of confidentiality goes out this way. That being said, considering that Google and Apple basically own most of my information anyway, it's probably not too big of a deal.

Finally, aside from actually using the service, it's also been a good learning for me in terms of creating meaningful business solutions. The service is simple. It does one thing. And it does that thing well. The most important part for me is that it fits into my workflow and as a result, it was really quick to adapt to.

We are taking this lesson into account as we continue to improve PMRobot and looking closely at the workflow of project managers and software developers to ensure that PMRobot slips right into the way most people are working already! Have feedback about how we can improve PMRobot from a workflow point of view? Drop me a line at ramy@pmrobot.com.