Use a rule in Outlook to delay email messages

By creating a delay rule, you can control when Outlook sends specific messages. Susan Harkins explains.

We all work differently and there's no reason you can't configure Outlook to accommodate your needs, when possible. For instance, you might write emails, but want to send them at a specific time. Maybe you want to edit the email later or you have some kind of timeline to maintain. One way to do this is to save messages to the Drafts folder until you're ready to send them and then send them manually. If you do this as a matter of routine, you might want to create a delay rule.

For example, you might want to delay messages for an hour, giving you ample time to return later to make last minute changes. To create a delay rule, do the following:

  1. In the Mail window, click the Home tab.
  2. In the Move group, click the Rules dropdown.
  3. Choose Manage Rules & Alerts.
  4. In the resulting window, click New Rule.
  5. In the Start From A Blank Rule section, select Apply Rule On Messages I Send.
  6. Click Next twice and then Yes (you don't need to set a condition at this point, but you could).
  7. Check the Delay Deliver By A Number Of Minutes option.
  8. In the step 2 pane, click the a number of minutes link, enter 60, and click OK.
  9. Click Next. In the next window, you could specify exceptions to your delay rule.
  10. Click Next.
  11. In the last pane, enter a name, such as Delay Send Rule.
  12. Click Finish, and then OK.

Delay rules come with an inherent problem-Outlook will send messages when the time arrives, regardless of your intentions. In addition, a delay rule like our example will impact all of your mail, not just those you actually need to delay. In other words, a delay rule might have some unfortunate repercussions, so use these rules judiciously.


Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.


The default for me is 3 minutes to allow for that OOPS moment, but I also have a trigger setup, i.e. the rule also checks for a string in the message, i.e. [Immediate_Send] and those are sent right away. Works well. Don't want the "trigger" to be visible in your outgoing message? I use Quick Parts during the message creation to paste the trigger text using a white font on a white background.


I have found that these are client side options. Outlook must be running for them to work. If the delay is used and the pc is shut down at delivery day\time the mail won't be delivered till the pc is started and outlook openned again.


You can also delay emails to go at a specific time and date. In Outlook 2007 open a new message, go to options and select 'Delay Delivery'. In the 'Delivery options' of the dialog box you can choose when the message is sent. Obviously this would only be relevant to the current email message, and would not affect all emails.


I have used a 3-minute delay in my outbound emails for years. I call it my "oops rule", which allows me to pick up items from the Outbox and modify the message or recipients if needed. For mail that needs to go out immediately, I've added "except if it is marked as high importance". Flagging a note with the exclamation mark means it's sent without delay.


Very elegant, mtrevino. Can you describe in a bit more detail how you use Quick Parts for that trigger text? Presumably people reading the message in plain text will still see it.

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