Quick Tip No 22: Active Inbox and Boomerang

Email 200This is another email related Quick Tip helping you to get control of your emails in Gmail. I have been pretty happy with my zero Inbox email strategy over the last six months with a few exceptions (more on that later). Key of this strategy is that I only check emails when I am able to act on them by

  • archiving or deleting after I’ve read them
  • answering if the reply takes less than two minutes (after that I archive it) or
  • transferring the emails as a task to Asana

As a result, I only check my emails a few times a day and I have no read emails in my inbox that still require some action. I absolutely agree with the reasons Leo Babauta from Zen Habits lists for Why Your Email Inbox Is NOT a Good To-do List. These are:

  1. You can’t change the subject lines.
  2. There might be multiple actions in each email
  3. You can’t re-order the emails (usually).
  4. You can’t prioritize your to-dos.
  5. An email inbox contains distractions.

I would add two more

  • You cannot add notes to emails
  • emails are always sitting there and don’t become visible on a certain deadline

I wrote that I am currently pretty happy with my email strategy with a few exceptions. Such exceptions are when it seems too much effort to create a new task in Asana (or somewhere else). Examples would be when I got an email requesting information but need input from someone else before I can respond. Another example is when answering the email would take me less than two minutes, but I rather wait because the person is on vacation for the next week. I also quite often get emails with temporary passwords where I am informed that I will be able to access a certain page in one or two days.

At last there is the case, when I want to follow-up on a response I sent, but again, creating a new task for just the follow-up seems like a waste of time.

These are cases when the Gmail plugins Active Inbox and Boomerang have become very useful for me.

Very briefly Boomerang enables you to

  • draft an email and schedule a later time when it will be send
  • automatically re-send emails in case you don’t get a response within a certain time frame
  • remove emails from your inbox until a later time
  • get reminders for emails you sent for follow up

The key features of Active Inbox are:

  • you can remove all emails from your inbox by giving them an “Action”or “Waiting on” status
  • can assign due dates to emails
  • can group emails into projects you are currently working on
  • ability to attach notes to emails and a list of to dos

As you can see both have a little different scope and offer free plans, but both are probably only really useful for you with the paid plans. But of course this and what plugin works better for you very much depends on what type of emails you are dealing with. I recommend to just test them; both come with great tutorial videos.

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