Managing the flood of email on a daily basis is a challenge that affects nearly all of us.
(If you're sat there thinking
'not me, I never have more than a screenful of emails at once', then congratulations -- you are in the minority who
has a mercifully low volume of email or an already excellent process of control. Be happy!).
If you feel stressed, or even just numb, at the size of your inbox, it's not your fault. Gmail
is based on the old fashioned in-tray metaphor, which gives you only two basic choices: waste time copying the
email into your task management system, or let it sink into the swamp never to be seen again.
But ActiveInbox believes emails aren't letters, they're tasks. It gives you another way to get email under control and get things done.
And it starts with emptying your inbox…
Clear out your inbox, fast
Pre-Step: Bulk Archive Newsletters And Old Emails
For a newsletter, you can click the checkbox next to the first one, click 'More' and then 'Filter messages like these'.
You want to tell the filter to skip your inbox, and apply a label. When
you create the filter, you have the choice to apply it to all conversations in your inbox - do this and they shall disappear.
And for old email, assuming you're confident you're never going to reply to any of it,
you can do a search in Gmail for 'before:yyyy/mm/dd' (e.g. before:2012/01/01 to show emails before 1st
Jan 2012), and then use the header bar to 'Select All' (make sure you then click 'Select all X conversations in the inbox'),
and just archive them.
The Regular Routine To Clear Your Inbox
If you can delete (or just archive) an email, do it. The more clutter you can cut out, the more clear your mind can be.
ActiveInbox has 'move nexter' short cuts to help you archive/delete and move next with a single click:
If you can complete an email in under 2 minutes, do it. (Beware! It's a bad idea to send just a 'thanks' email because that clogs
up other people's inboxes). Did you know ActiveInbox lets you 'Send, Archive & Move Next' in a single click?
File it. Add it to a Project folder so that Gmail starts to take the form of a personal knowledge base, full of well organized information.
Action it if you cannot do it now. Give it an Action or Waiting On status so you can track it from the Review Bar,
or apply a Deadline to impress contacts with a timely response.
Never forget a to-do
Use the Review Bar to guarantee things get completed
Beware! Once you achieve an empty inbox, it will feel fantastic, but you cannot ignore the emails you've actioned. There's a real risk
of 'out of sight, out of mind'. We recommend, like taking time to meet with your boss each day, that you create a routine of processing
your active emails once a day; and cleaning up aging items and anything that may have slipped the net once a week.
The secret to ensuring all tasks get completed is having an intuitive and constant visual overview of every active item on your radar.
Tracking things you're Waiting On
In addition to actioning emails when you're clearing your inbox, you are most likely to want to mark an email you send
as Waiting On - perhaps with a deadline too - to guarantee you get a reply.
As you reply, catch things you may have missed
In the Reply box, ActiveInbox has a 'Previous Emails' button that shows you recent discussions with a person, letting
you spot any active items that you might have overlooked, or just find out what you last talked about.
Keep Notes to remind yourself of key information
When you're clearing the inbox, if you scan an email, and a thought pops into your head, you can use Conversation Notes to record
what you think so that when you return later on, you remember what was important.
And because the Note appears in the Active Results next to the conversation,
it is a good idea to make the note something short and actionable that you can scan. E.g. 'Call Bob on his home phone'.
(If you ever wished you could change the subject of an email, this is the next best thing).
Focus on Projects & People
Email is terrible at showing you the bigger picture of your daily work. Instead of wrangling 10 jumbled individual emails, ActiveInbox
encourages you to put them into a Project folder, and just focus on moving your projects towards their conclusion.
Creating Sub Projects (Nested Folders)
Behind the scenes, Project folders are just Gmail labels with a special prefix - by default, P/ - that
ActiveInbox understands, and uses to give you new features for managing your Projects. And you can even create sub-folders, just use
the forward slash (/), for example P/Ideas/IdeaX would create the folder IdeaX within the folder Ideas.
Understanding the difference between reference emails and Active emails in a Project
In ActiveInbox, any email that has a status (Action/Waiting On) or a deadline is active. This is the main
thing you'll focus on when doing reviews. On the Review Bar,
the number next to a project is the number of active items (not total number of emails). And when you click the project
from the Review Bar, it opens into the Active Results (which only shows active emails), but if you need to,
you can switch the results tab to 'All Results' to include reference materials.
Completing a Project
If you no longer want a project to appear in your Projects list, simply rename it (through Gmail labels) to give it the Old/
prefix. E.g. Old/P/Ideas/IdeaX. (By using the prefix, rather than just deleting the label, you still preserve the association
between all emails and the project so you can go back to it).
Use Gmail with other management tools
Is your email actually an event? Get it out of Gmail and into a more specialized system like GCal
where it can be managed much more smartly.
This is a work in progress…
Our ability to integrate more tightly with other systems is the next big development for ActiveInbox.
Keep ideas coming on the Forum
and the Blog.