Inbox Zero with Emmerge
Although Emmerge has only been available to the general public since yesterday, I’ve been using it as my primary email application for about 5 months. And I’m happy to report that it has helped me in my quest for the elusive Inbox Zero.
Before Emmerge, I used my inbox as a task list. If I needed or wanted to take some sort of action based on an email (pay a bill, fill out a permission form for a field trip, look into something that seemed interesting, or just reply to a message), I left the message in my inbox to remind me to do it later. The problem is that often these tasks don’t need to get done immediately. For example, I might receive a reminder on April 5 for a bill that’s due on April 30. I don’t necessarily want to pay the bill weeks before it’s due, but I also don’t want to forget to pay it. So I would leave the email in my inbox to remind me. But that meant that every time I checked my email, I saw that bill reminder email sitting there, thought about what it was and when it was due, and then continued to ignore it. Eventually, I stopped paying attention to that email, and then risked missing the actual deadline. So not only was there extra mental overhead every time I opened my inbox, it wasn’t even functioning that well as a task list.
One key insight of Emmerge is recognizing that emails lead to tasks, but that an email inbox itself is not a great task list. Thus, Emmerge integrates your email with a task list, providing easy ways to generate tasks from emails, while allowing you to return from those tasks to the original emails to see the tasks in context.
For example, consider this email I received about renewing my WebStorm subscription. My current license doesn’t expire until June 23, so there’s no need to take action immediately. But if I had archived this email, I might not remember to renew the subscription. So rather than leaving this email in my inbox to remind me, I created a task for it in Emmerge by highlighting the relevant action item and clicking the “+Task” action (screenshot of the Web version here, but you can do it on iOS as well).
I now have a task associated with this email.
I can now find this task when I browse my list of tasks. Besides examining the task’s details like tags and time spent, I can also jump back to the email thread to find additional details like attachments or replies.
To take another example, consider this email about a Minecraft Modding Course that might interest my kids. I didn’t have time today to look into it, but wanted to remember to do so later. However, it doesn’t have a definite action item or due date. I just wanted to remind myself to follow up in a week. So I used the “fast follow-up” feature (the lightening bolt) to create a task to remind myself to check into the Minecraft Modding Course next week (on iOS this time)
I can also create tasks manually for my regular, non-email-generated todos, and all the tasks are combined in a single todo list, ordered by due date or importance.
So, have I finally reached the elusive Inbox Zero? Yes, and I’ve even managed to more or less stay there.