Configure your email program to work offline

Mozilla Thunderbird has this great feature called Work Offline. The way it works is that you click on the Work Offline icon and it downloads messages and then disconnects from the email server. Until you click the icon again, no new email messages show up in your inbox, and the emails you send go into a Unsent Messages folder. When you do go back online, all the pending emails in your Unsent Messages folder get sent, and all the new emails are downloaded.

So what's so great about that? The first time I noticed the Work Offline feature I remember thinking "Oh, I will never use that; It must be for people who want to work when they on airplanes or something" (and I am not one of those people; Airplanes are for catching up on New Yorkers). I forget what inspired me to try Work Offline for the first time, but when I did I immediately noticed two benefits.

The first was that I was able to focus on the task at hand much better without the distraction, and temptation, presented by new emails popping into my in-box. I don't know about you, but over time I have acquired an almost Pavlovian response to the little ding when a new email comes in. I drop everything, open up the new email, and then get sidetracked dealing with it. Of course with discipline its possible to train yourself to not respond to each incoming email, and if you have that discipline then good for you, but for me its easier to just remove the temptation.

The other benefit to working offline, which to me was completely unexpected, is that it is really handy to have all outgoing emails queued up in the Unsent Messages folder for a while before they actually go out. How many times have you sent an email, and then 5 minutes later realized that you forgot to mention something, or add the attachment, or you came across something that makes you realize that what you said in your email was wrong and you will have to send another email? With your outgoing emails queued up in the Unsent Messages folder its a simple matter to right click on the email, select "Edit as New," revise your email, re-send it, and then delete the old version.

Maybe I am ditzier than average, but there are times when I have revised a pending email 2 or 3 times before it actually goes out, typically because as I work through my email in-box I come across new information that makes me want to revise what I wrote.

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