Why I switched my GTD system from Gmail to Google Inbox

I use the GTD methodology for emails and tasks and I have just transitioned from using Gmail with a Google Chrome add-on called Active Inbox to Google Inbox. I found that both systems accommodate my workflow but I transitioned because Inbox has a much nicer user experience, which is the same on desktop and mobile.

As you can see Gmail has a million buttons
Inbox is free of a lot of Gmail’s clutter and the design is much nicer

How I use Google Inbox features to Get Things Done

Processing new emails in my inbox

I process my inbox three times a day at 10am 2pm and 5pm for 30 minutes sprints, which I time. The timer stops me from lingering and wasting time. Inbox groups emails as they come into my inbox by project so I can more easily batch process.

When processing my inbox I pin, respond if it takes less than 3 minutes, delegate, snooze or block.

Respond in less than 3 minutes

Most emails only require a quick response, which I can handle during processing my inbox.

Pin priority emails

Some emails require more than 3 minutes to action and they are high priority. For example my boss often emails me, which I must prioritize over everything else. I pin these emails in my inbox, which I can easily filter to view only pined items. In the morning after I spend 30 minutes writing I focus on my pinned emails, as I know they are more important than anything else. Once they are completed I move onto lower priority items.

Delegate to a member of my team

If I need to do something that takes longer than 3 minutes I will label it with my name and archive it so I can return to it later. I do this to avoid delaying processing my inbox otherwise I might miss an important new email in my inbox because I spent too much time on low priority emails.

Delegated emails get tagged with the team member’s name that I assigned the task to. This means I can easily select that label when I see the team member and follow up on all the tasks I assigned to them. Once a team member completes a task I remove their label. As I complete emails I archive them, which removes them from the inbox and removes any pins.


While processing my inbox I have to read every email to work out what the next action should be. Often I can anticipate if an email is likely to come back into my inbox if I expect a response and I would rather not have to re read the email again and again. I write a reminder on these emails which Inbox lets you do if you pin an email. Annoyingly if the email is not a priority I have to unpin the email after I write the reminder as it wont let me write reminders without first pinning.

Inbox also lets me create reminders separately from emails which is brilliant as it means I can keep my task list in my email inbox which is more efficient than keeping my task list in Evernote.


Evernote is great for storing all my meeting notes, blog posts etc. but I have transitioned to using an app with similar functionality called Google Keep which seamlessly syncing tasks to Google Inbox.


Some emails can’t be handled until a time, date or location in the future so I snooze them so they pop back into my inbox at any date, time or location I chose.


It took me years to realize that people will keep sending you emails no matter how fast or efficiently you respond. To avoid getting bogged down in millions of emails I have forced myself to be comfortable with saying no to low priority requests or ignoring unsolicited emails.

The Google Universe

I am trying to use all Google products in the hope they continue to improve the integration and automation between each app. For example it would be great if Google recognized an email from someone asking for a meeting and gave me a one-click button to add to calendar. I would also love Google to automatically add contact info in emails to my Google contacts.

Originally published at littlejohnwenttomarket.com on November 29, 2015.