July 27, 2017

It’s OK if you work best really late at night or really early in the morning, but your colleagues and sources don’t need to. Here’s a tool to help you be effective without being annoying.

Hare: Hi, Ren! What’s our new tool today?

LaForme: I was inspired by a colleague at Poynter who sent out some late-night emails, complete with an apology, to revisit an old favorite that more people need to know about. Let’s talk about Boomerang.

Hare: This isn’t the app that lets you loop Instagram pics, right?

LaForme: No, but that one is a personal favorite, too! I’m talking about Boomerang for Gmail.

There are all kinds of studies and recommendations from pros that scold you for sending out late-night emails to your colleagues (and they’ve straight-up banned it in France). Turns out, it’s bad for your own productivity. Whether you want it to or not, it sets expectations that you are ready and available to work at all hours of the day. And it also sets that bar for your colleagues — especially if you’re the boss. I’ve gotten midnight emails from managers in the past that left me wondering if they expected an immediate response or not. It’s not the best.

Hare: As an #InboxZero person, I feel compelled to reply regardless of the hour, too. But I also use early morning hours before work really kicks in to respond and get through that to-do list. So a way to not send emails super early (and a way to be considerate of different timelines) is great. How does it work?

LaForme: Par for the course, it’s super easy. You just have to go to the Boomerang site and click the big button to install Boomerang in your Gmail. Google will load you a popup that shows what, exactly, you’ll be giving Boomerang access to. Just accept those and you’re good.

From there, just write your email like normal and, instead of clicking send when you’re done, you click the little Boomerang button to pick a time to send the email later. If you don’t trust it, there’s a little folder you can check on the left side of your screen that shows outgoing messages.

Hare: That’s super easy. What if I schedule an email to send and then get different information (or perspective, depending on what cup of coffee I’m on?) Can you un-boomerang?

LaForme: Totally! Just head over to that folder and click your email. You can bounce in and edit it and, if you want, change the outgoing time.

A couple of other things: It’s also available for Outlook. It’s free for up to 10 Boomerang’d emails per month. From there, the cheapest plan starts at five bucks a month and includes unlimited emails. I’ve never paid for it as I’m not in the habit of writing too many late-night emails, but I think that’s a pretty reasonable price for the types who do. You have to have at least the cheap paid plan if you want to use it on mobile.

The $15 per month plan has some cool things like sentiment analysis and some type of machine learning to help you write responses, but I’ve never tried it. It looks at your email and judges how likely it is that someone will respond. It also lets you set and send recurring messages, like that standard weekly “get your timesheets in” email. I could see that being useful in some workplaces.

Hare: Sentiment analysis makes me shiver. That’s what !!! 🙂 🙁 are for. So how do you see journalists using this? Just for in-office stuff?

LaForme: I’m sure there are about a million different ways we can use it in our reporting. Sources probably don’t want late-night emails, either. It could also be helpful in cases where you’re working with embargoed stories.

Hare: I would love this for a way to stay on top of sources who are slow to respond. Wait, is this how PR people are so persistent?

LaForme: I have to believe that’s part of their personality.

Hare: Anything you’d add or change about this?

LaForme: It takes a few tries to get used to. There’s something about writing an email and then not sending it that feels totally wrong. I’ll admit that I double-checked whether my Boomerang’d emails sent for the first couple months I was using it.

Other than that, it works as advertised! The folks who are sending those 2 a.m. inbox-purging messages should install this post haste.

Hare: One thing I like about this is that it lets people who want to work crazy hours do that without making everyone else feel like they should.

LaForme: Yeah! You do you, but keep it to yourself.

Editor’s note: This is the latest in a series of articles that highlight digital tools for journalists. You can read the others here. Got a tool we should talk about? Let Ren know!

Learn more about journalism tools with Try This! — Tools for Journalism. Try This! is powered by Google News Lab. It is also supported by the American Press Institute and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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