In our business lives, regardless of the nature of our tasks, most of the time they start and end as emails. However, although Emails and tasks work so close to each other, there are a lot of articles online advising people to stop using email as a To Do list. Today, I will share the reasons why I use my Inbox and a task manager and why I believe people should do the same.  

How many of your emails are tasks? How many of your tasks are emails?

Have you noticed that regardless of the nature of your day-to-day activities, they mostly start and end in email? Many tasks require email, and many emails require tasks. For example, if you are:

Closing that deal? You will definitely:

  • Send emails to introduce your product or service
  • Send emails to schedule a demo/ call / meeting
  • Send emails to share a contract

Helping your customer with a problem? You will definitely:

  • Receive an email with a customer complaint
  • Send an email with instructions
  • Receive an email back with a rating for your customer support

Trying to raise money? You will definitely:

  • Exchange emails internally with pitch deck
  • Send pitch decks (by email, of course) to potential investors
  • Receive emails with decision on go/no-go from investors 

No matter what, it’s unavoidable: email is still the most used business tool. Regardless of the nature of your To Dos, in the end, they will mostly become email.

Why not keep emails and tasks together?

Although emails and tasks work so closely together, there are a lot of articles online advising people to Stop using email as a To Do list. A quick research made me realize most defenders of this idea are actually Task Management tools.🤔 I feel forced to disagree with that, and I tell you why.

I personally have always used my Inbox as a To Do list. And the mains reason is very simple: to keep my whole day centralized and organized in one place. There is no reason to add extra steps, layers, tools, tabs or channels in my day-to-day tasks.

A proper Inbox should be enough.

But the problem is that traditional email layouts are not designed to be To Do lists. The result is that… well… I confess that, until recently, my way of organizing To Dos was not something I was proud of…

The good news is that is it possible (and very productive) to use your Inbox as To Do lists. This is how my Inbox looks today with Drag:

Much better, huh? This is ALL I need. No notes app, To Do apps, emailing myself, post-its, stickers, JUST. MY. INBOX.

I agree that traditional email layouts are outdated and unproductive, as I mentioned here. But this applies not only to being a task manager, but to being a communication tool as a whole. With a little help, your Inbox can become an extremely powerful task manager.

Why you should use your Inbox as a task manager

The reasons why I use my Inbox as To Do list and think you should do the same if because you can:

1. Save time by centralizing your workflow in a single place

It doesn’t mean if a task came from your emails or by another mean. A task is a task. Let’s analyze two scenarios.

When a task stems from emails: I don’t get the logic of selecting an email, sending it out to a different tool as a task or list of tasks, then performing the tasks and… guess what? Going back to your Inbox because that Email needs to be replied to. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could simply assign a checklist of things you need to do to be ready to reply to that email, right inside your inbox? Yes, this is possible.

When a task does not stem from email: You might ask yourself “what about the tasks that have nothing to do with my email?”. True, there are tasks that are independent from emails. But is it necessary to have a To Do list for non-email-related tasks and another one for email-related-tasks? Of course not. The good news is that it is also possible to add independent tasks seamlessly into your Inbox.

I never leave my Inbox. Transitioning between different tools is just a waste of time and unnecessary rework.

2. Visualize your To-Dos better

By visualizing your emails and tasks altogether, you can quickly and easily identify the tasks required from the emails you receive and vice-versa, avoiding duplication or overlapping of To Dos and improving clarity of your tasks

Besides that, nobody works with a single type of task or emails. People work across different topics, clients, projects, teams, timeframes, etc. Both emails and tasks are multi-dimensional. And if you don’t organize them properly, your life will potentially become a mess. So why should your task manager be unidimensional? Task management tools should not be based on single lists.

To improve even more the visualization of your workflow, applying the proven Kanban layout to both emails and tasks is highly recommended. Kanban is a way of managing tasks in a lean way. it allows you to visually map your workflow (originally created by Toyota to streamline task management in manufacturing).

Today, there are major successes in software tools that use Kanban methodology to change the way things have currently been done. Trello brought the concept successfully for Task Management, Pipedrive for CRM and JIRA for software development. Drag is pioneering the application of the concept for Emails & Tasks.

3. Manage what you need straight on the source

Many people rely on external Task Management apps because they bring productivity features that traditional email providers don’t. In fact, the traditional email layout does not allow you to add tasks, set due dates in Emails, add notes, send reminders, and many other handy features.

The good news is that it is possible to do that to both emails and tasks, right inside your Inbox. There is no need to spend time exporting an email to a different tool just to be able to apply management features in tasks.

4. Never lose any important information

By centralizing your emails and tasks in your Inbox and having a universal task management process, it gets much easier to keep your Inbox up to date and apply actions to your emails as they come (whether it be archiving, replying, drag’n’drop to another Kanban column, labeling or any other action).

This means you can be more responsive and get things done right there in your Inbox, in a more productive way. You will never lose focus on your Tasks because of Emails and never lose focus on your Emails because of Task Management apps. An Inbox Zero means a To Do Zero, can you imagine that?

Never get overwhelmed by Email again!

In summary…

Using Inbox as a Task Manager is a very effective way of managing your daily To Dos. Being able to centralize your tasks in a single tool, better visualizing your workflow, applying actions straight to Emails and keeping on top of incoming information are really paramount for the productivity of any professional.

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