I’ve made the switch to using Google Apps as my email client. I’ve been pretty happy, I must admit. It’s nice to have access anywhere and not have to deal with nursing my other application. However, I was making one mistake that dawned on me the other day.
The inbox is NOT a task list.
Oh sure, I know for some people that works well. But not for me, maybe not for you either. Here’s some things that can happen if you use your inbox as a task list:
- Emails get missed (like really important ones, from important people)
- Overload: Ever tried to look at Gmail with all the flags and feel like you were drowning?
- “Action” items never actually get done
- Labels look like a patchwork quilt
So, here’s what I did.
- Put the inbox and task list in separate corners. I separated them back out (I use Remember The Milk), and have a task list and an inbox. They are related, because…
- Emails are for backup. Just like an Action Paper Management system or Tickler File, emails can be things that need to get done. Think of them as backup materials.
- Deleted emails after responding. I picked up this handy little tip from my interview with Peter Shankman. I’m not a librarian, and I don’t want to have to manage a huge list of dead emails.
- Create tasks from email interactions. Such as: “enter Jim’s info into contact manager” or “submit See Jane Work order”. Keep the email in an @action label (or file), and delete when task is finished.
- Filter, filter and filter again. There’s lots of white noise that happens in the Inbox, so filter those babies out. Less time manually filtering email = more time to do what actually matters.
For a little more reading on managing email, check out this ZenHabits article, “Email Zen”.
Do you use your inbox as a task list? Why or why not?