Email Inbox As A Task ManagerWe've been talking to users and learning how they're using their email inbox as a task manager.

And these are most common ways a Gmail inbox is hacked into a task manager:

  • Unread messages: After reading each message, if the message needs to be a task, mark the message as unread.
  • Stars: Star-ing emails that need attention or require follow up.
  • Keep unfinished tasks in the inbox, archive everything else: The only messages in the inbox are ones that require action. As tasks from emails are completed, the message is archived away.

Each of these methods tries to turns email from a communication channel into a productivity suite.

But there are 3 major problems with this setup:

There's No Place For Tasks You Create For Yourself

Your email inbox is where others park their tasks that they need you to do.
But you can't add any tasks that you create for yourself.

So productive users who want to keep track of the tasks and projects they create for themselves end up using a separate task manager to capture their own tasks.

Keeping two task managers (an email inbox and a task manager like Sandglaz) results in time wasted switching between the two tools.

And it also introduces a sync problem.

The Task Manager And Inbox Are Never In Sync

The sync problem happens when users add tasks from their email into their task manager.

But since emails get updated with replies (example: an updated attachment with the latest numbers, or an email from a colleague with new information), the email inbox usually trumps your task manager when it comes to detail and context.

When things go out of sync like this, you might spend a lot of time switching back and forth to hunt for more information from your inbox, dig up the most recent version of an attachment, or see what the latest update is to a task.

No Start Dates or Deadlines On Emails

Treating an email inbox as a list of tasks doesn't allow you to set a start date in the future or give a deadline for tasks.

Not every email requires immediate action. And not every email can even be started right now.

So setting start dates or deadline on tasks usually means turning to a task manager or calendar for time based planning.

We'll be exploring the intersection of the email inbox and task management more in upcoming blog posts.

So, do you use a task manager but also rely on your email inbox to manage tasks?