If you’re overwhelmed by the volume of email in your Gmail inbox, it’s probably because you’re one of the millions of people who use your inbox as your to do list. Your inbox is probably full of requests for information or action, messages that you need to refer to later when you’re completing a task, or stuff you want to remember to read later when you have time.Up until a few months ago, I was in the same boat, and I dreaded looking at my inbox because it was impossible to focus on what really needed my attention! Then I found Taskforce, and it helped me bring sanity back to my inbox!
Taskforce is a browser plugin for Safari, Chrome, and Firefox that adds a task list on steroids to your Gmail and helps you get control of your inbox again.
Since you can view a complete feature tour on the Taskforce website, I’ll just give you a few examples of how this tool can change the way you manage your email & daily priorities.
Convert email to tasks to keep your inbox uncluttered
If you’re like me, you get a lot of requests via email that require your response or action – now or in the future. Your inbox may be full of stuff you need to act on, but it’s a challenge to keep track of what you need to do, and when. You may also be keeping stuff that needs to be done FAR in the future, but you’re afraid you’ll forget about it if you file or delete the message.
Now that I have Taskforce installed, here’s how I triage email requests:
- If I can act NOW: I reply to the email or complete the request, then immediately archive the message out of my inbox.
- If I can act TODAY: I convert the email to a task using Taskforce. I then add notes about what needs to be done, and keep it on my Current Tasks list. Then I archive the mail and get it out of my inbox because I know it’s being tracked on my task list. Since the task is linked to the original email, I can always find it again.
- If I can act in the FUTURE: I convert the email to a task using Taskfoce, then I add a DELAY DATE to the converted task, selecting the day I think I will have time to work on it. Taskforce then puts the task into hibernation, so I don’t have to see it on today’s task list. When the day arrives, the task magically appears, and it will be linked to the original email so I can respond easily. After adding the task, I archive the email and get it out of my inbox.
- If the email is related to an EXISTING task: I click the “Add to Existing Task” button, then chose the relevant task from the list, and archive the message. Now both the original and new email are linked and I can easily access all of the emails related to the request when I have time.
Efficiency Tip: You’ll notice that I use the Archive feature of Gmail after converting emails. DON’T FORGET THIS STEP — it’s the key to keeping your inbox clear of things you are already tracking in the Taskforce tool. Since the email is linked to the task, there’s no need to keep the original message in your inbox because you can always find it again from the task.
Prioritize your time with the floating Gmail task list
I use the floating task list menu from Taskforce as my list of things I need to do TODAY. I never keep things on the list that I don’t have time to work on today. Every day, I get up and look at my list – comparing it to the time available on my calendar. I drag & drop the items into priority order, and delay any items that have no chance of getting done in the time available. Delayed items go into “hibernation” and will reappear on my list on the day I specify.
Througout the day, if someone asks me to do something, or I’m in a meeting and get assigned an action item, I add it right to my task list. There’s even a mobile version of Taskforce so you can manage tasks on the go.
Efficiency Tip: If the task involves talking to one of my team members, I add their name to the beginning of the task title (i.e. Chris: check status of backups), which allows me to quickly sort the list. I try to wait until I have a few things to talk about with someone, and ask all my questions at once, instead of bugging them multiple times as I work my way down the list.
Stay organized with multiple task lists
Since Taskforce allows you to create multiple lists, I have an “As Time Allows” list where I file things I want to read at some point, but don’t have a specific time frame. For example, if I hear about a new social media tool, I’ll add “Research xyz tool” to this list. Then when I need a break, or find myself with a few spare minutes, I can pick something off this list and feel productive. I also keep a “Personal” list that I refer to when I’m at home to remind me about bills, snack day at my daughter’s preschool, etc.
Collaborate on tasks
One of the coolest features of Taskforce is that you can collaborate on tasks and send notices to each other as you check things off. This is particularly handy for internal projects or managing personal tasks with your spouse since it auto-nags your collaborator about due dates, making Taskforce the bad guy instead of you! It’s best if collaborators also use Taskforce, but it’s not required.
Free your mind and focus on your priorities
Some people resist task lists because they sound inflexible, but I love them because it frees my brain up to focus on other things and batch my time more effectively.
Taskforce Pro is free for 30 days, and costs $5 per month (or $49.95/year). There’s also a free version, but the extra cost for added features is well worth the money, in my opinion. Obviously the value in Taskforce is how you choose to use it, and you may need to adopt some other healthier email & task management habits to get the most bang for your buck!