Have You Ever Wanted to Unsend an Email?

impulse control

[Reading time: 1 minute 30 seconds]

I was trying think of a catchy phrase to use with my email signature when I came up with something I thought was great. I was so excited, I immediately fired off an email to my sister so she could see my cleverness:

Helping you get to your destination one brain skillet of time

Her reply: "Huh? I don't get it."

Here's what I learned:

  • Rule #1: Turn off spell check.
  • Rule #2: Always re-read your emails before you hit send.

I really did think I had learned the read-before-you-hit-send lesson but apparently I needed a refresher... Here are 4 ways to keep those spur-of-the-moment impulses in check:

 how to unsend an email - slow downhow to unsend an email - be aware of your triggershow to unsend an email - pay attention to details


Impulsive actions are often triggered by an emotion

Impulsivity, by definition, is an action that we do without thinking. And because our amygdalas are often in the driver's seat, that action is driven by an emotion... whether we recognize it or not.

In my case, I was excited to share my great new tagline. I didn't take the time to re-read it, I just imagined my sister reading it and thinking how clever it was!

Sometimes a long list of household To Dos will give me enough anxiety that I'll start blasting around the house trying to get ahead. What I don't realize (in the moment) is that it's actually the anxiety driving my productivity.

Jennifer Skinner, a LPSC in Wisconsin says naming the emotion-of-the-moment is key:
“Just being able to name your emotions takes the reactive part of the brain offline and allows your executive functioning to come into play more, and as soon as your executive functioning is coming into play, you’re going to have a better response to the situation.”

The executive functioning that she's referring to here is Metacognition - the part of your brain that allows you to pause and think before you act. It's not a bad thing to deal with the list of household stuff that needs attention but I know I'm going to be better served if I can pause - and then pick-and-choose what I can reasonably get done rather than charge around trying to get everything done.

I have strong Goal-directed Persistence so maybe the first thing on any of my lists needs to be STOP - so I'm reminded to pause and think before launching into massive productivity.

Here's a special email tip:

Set your email program to delay sending after you've hit the 'send' button.
If you often have email remorse after you hit send, here are a couple of email programs that allow you to delay the sending time:


In your web browser, click on your email Settings and scroll down to the Undo Send section. From the drop-down, choose the Send Cancellation Period between 5 to 30 seconds.


If the recipient has not read your email, you should be able to retract it. On the Message tab in the Actions group, click Other Actions, and then click Recall This Message.

I wish there was a way to do this in ALL email programs!



What does your brain need to effectively get things done?

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