One major difference between GTDInbox and most of the other task+email systems out there (inc. Google Tasks) is that GTDInbox turns an email into a task. Those other systems encourage you to create a task, and add an email to it.

We’ve thought about this on and off over the years, and even flirted with the idea of creating standalone tasks within our system.

But, it has just never made sense to us.

Tasks buried in email are unique creatures. They are fast flowing, they are small, they are often half defined and part of a bigger picture. Most are quick to solve, and a significant number require collaboration with others to solve (delegate, ask for help, etc.). They are simply not traditional tasks; and therefore do not cleanly fit into traditional task management systems.

I think the point is, it is economically senseless to try and create a task for every email (or every couple of emails). It requires considerable effort – and therefore time – to think up a task name, to connect it with the email, and to manage it. The reality is that most email tasks are processed too quickly to make that effort worthwhile. We just want to say “this email is an action, don’t let me forget it, help me understand where it fits in, and help me respond better”.

The one arguable benefit of creating separate tasks is to help understand where individual emails fit into the bigger picture. But GTD gives us a clean and simple mechanism for that: Projects. Your projects are descriptions of tasks (P/CreateForecastForPete). And in Gmail, labels fit far more quickly – and flexibly – into your workflow than cumbersome separate tasks.

Put simply, our mantra of “emails are actions” is not about to change. Nor is our desire to stay lightweight and in harmony with Gmail. It’s not for everyone, but it’s simple, it’s fast, it requires minimal effort and it’s the optimal – native – solution for effective, organized communication.

(I should make it clear I’m not against traditional task managers. But I am saying email is a different beast and requires something better suited to its true nature. Certainly, for some kinds of task buried in email it makes sense to ‘export’ them to a bigger system. Just not the majority.).


This was written by Andy Mitchell