“Karen took her shoes off at her desk AGAIN,” you type in an angry email to Kyle, your coworker. “Her feet smell like a family of anchovies that just finished their first 5K run.” Sick burn, you congratulate yourself. Kyle will love it! *Send*
A minute passes… so why don’t you hear Kyle laughing? Are his quiet chuckles just being drowned out by Karen’s hysterical sobs? Turns out you sent the email to the wrong person—the WRONGEST person. Karen. And there’s no taking it back now. (Think that’s bad? Coworkers hate it when you send this kind of email.)
Or is there? We all know that what is read cannot be unread, but few email users realize that there is a way to catch a devastating email before it hits, and to swiftly undo a sent message. It’s called “enable undo send” in Gmail, and it only takes about five seconds of preparation to set up. Here’s how to find it right now.
1. Log into Gmail. Click on the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner, look about halfway down the menu and click on “settings.”
2. In the settings screen, click on the “general” tab if you aren’t there by default. Now, look for the field called “undo send” (it should be roughly the fifth option on the list). Click the checkbox next to the option “enable undo send”.
3. Below the checkbox, you can now open a drop-down menu called “send cancellation period.” Choose the option you want—anywhere from five to thirty seconds. This indicates how long your email will sit on the mail truck, so to speak, between you hitting send and your recipient receiving the message.
4. Click “save changes” at the bottom of the screen.
5. Go buy Karen a nice bottle of wine.
Now, the next time you hit “send” on an email, the usual dialogue box that says “Your message has been sent” will pop up, however it should now have the extra options “undo” and “view message.” If you selected 30 seconds from the “cancellation period” menu in the settings tab, you now effectively have 30 seconds to review your sent emails and cancel their delivery if you so desire. No more cryin’ Karen!
It’s important to realize that this is not a carte blanche email retrieval tool, though. Essentially, it’s a built-in grace period for catching the most common email mistakes—perfect for adding attachments you may have forgotten, or realizing you sent a sensitive message to the wrong person. The key is to be mindful of this new setting; if you don’t hit “undo” within 30 seconds, the email sends as usual, life goes on, and we all must live with the consequences.
On that note, it seems like a good time to memorize the one magic phrase everyone wants to hear in an apology.