A few weeks ago, I managed to win a competition based solely on my ability to send an email. I took a fiction-writing class for fun earlier in the year, and all students from the past semester were offered a chance to read at a literary event, with the winners chosen from the first five people to shoot an email to the organizer at a specific time the next week.

I nabbed a spot thanks to my email scheduler, a nifty tool for anyone who wants to send emails hours or days after they’ve been written—like when you draft an email in the middle of the night but don’t necessarily want to let the other person know you’re mulling over your response at 4:00 a.m. Or, if you're emailing someone in a different time zone about something that isn't urgent, you might want to have it land during their office hours, rather than your own.

Email schedulers are an important part of the marketing world, so there are plenty of services out there that will charge you to act as your personal secretary. But for those of us who just want to have our missives read at more appropriate times, there are some free options.

Boomerang for Gmail, an app that will allow you to schedule your outgoing emails and will re-up emails in your inbox that you don’t want to deal with immediately, put together the below graphic on when people want to read messages based on their data. Most of Boomerang’s users seem to schedule messages for 9:00 a.m., presumably to catch people who read their email right when they sit down at their desk at work, but users have the service remind them of their own emails at 5:00 and 6:00 a.m., indicating that people may be spending more time reading emails before work than during office hours.

Boomerang for Gmail

You can use Boomerang for free on up to 10 emails per month (unlimited costs $5 per month), making it a pretty good option if you only occasionally need a time-delay on your outbox. To install, all you have to do is click a button on the Boomerang site and restart your Gmail.

For people who are chronic middle-of-the-night emailers, or those who don’t use Gmail, there are a few other free options.

If you use Outlook, the option is built-in to the software and appears in the “Options” tab of the email you want to send. You just have to click “delay delivery.” For whatever reason, it seems the option is not available for the 2011 Mac version of Outlook.

You can also schedule messages in Gmail with Google Sheets, though it takes a little more legwork to set up. (Installation instructions are here.)

Lastly, Macs come equipped with an app called Automator, and you can use it to automatically open and send certain emails through your desktop calendar (instructions here) while Windows has Task Scheduler, a piece of software that will automatically run programs you designate, including email (instructions here).

Happy emailing!