How to Keep Track of Overdue Responses

If you interact with more than three people at work, and especially if you are in a matrix management position, do you find it difficult to answer the following question:

Who still owes me a reply to a message I sent?

Unless you have a system to track the requests you send via email, only when you actually need the information as input to another task, will you remember, for example, that Jim hasn’t reviewed those figures you emailed him last week. At this point, if the response hasn’t arrived, it’s almost too late because you cannot get on with your own work, and your own schedule and commitments are affected.

Here’s a trick for keeping track:

  1. In your email program, create a folder called “Waiting For Answer”.
  2. Whenever you write a message that requires an answer, have your email program save the message in the “Waiting For Answer” folder after it’s been sent.
  3. Check the contents of the “Waiting For Answer” folder a few times a day, and remove the messages that have received a response. If it’s getting close to when you need a reply and it still hasn’t arrived, it’s time to send a reminder…

Step 2 is a bit clumsy in Microsoft Outlook, though it can be done. When you compose your message, click the Options… button on the toolbar, and specify “Waiting For Answer” in the Save sent message to: box. If you want to make life easier, you can use SpeedFiler to prompt you for a folder when you send the message.

The best trick for getting a response, however, is to ask for it! Take the guesswork out of the message and include a very clear call to action that spells out exactly what you are asking the recipient to do, and by when.

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14 responses to “How to Keep Track of Overdue Responses

  1. Good tricks… Day by day it gets harder and harder to cover all…

  2. Pingback: Something Epic » Buried in my inbox

  3. Thats a great trick. I also like the other pointers that you have on this blog.
    I thought of sharing what I do often and that helped me for this scenario. I make a copy to myself or copy message from sent folder to respective folder that I have for conversation type and then flag to myself. It is a one click feature on latest version of Outlook program.Personal flags can be color coded and mails can be sorted by flags / follow ups. Thre is also a favorite view for follow up emails that lists all available/pending emails – thats pretty neat.

  4. Instead of using a separate folder, in Outlook you can just use follow ups with a reminder set to some point in time. Once you get a reminder you either clear or resend the follow up…

  5. Ivan, the problem I have with reminders is that they tend to interrupt something else I’m doing. I prefer to scan my lists when I have time, and not have them interrupt me when I don’t.

  6. There’s another way to do that: create a task and write what you want as if it were an email; then send a report of it to the responsible person.

  7. I want e-mail that has a ‘Do you need a reply to this?’ setting. Choose ‘yes’ and if there is no reply from that person in x days, it sends the exact same email again, and again, and again, until the person either responds or tells you to f*** off. :)

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