The big issue – and risk – with managing emails in ActiveInbox is that emails get moved out of the inbox, only to find themselves in another list that isn’t regularly checked.

Looking at my own Gmail, there are some Waiting On items that have built up over several weeks; and even Today sometimes get missed.

To my mind, any solution broadly falls into either:
1) Incentivizing a regular routine (a “Daily Review”)
2) Making important items inescapable by putting them right in front of you

Where software meets human nature, the blunt & minimal-effort approach is normally preferable! So I believe we should concentrate on #2.

Below are 3 ideas we’ve been mulling over, and would love your thoughts on.

Quick Hints

The goal here is to get gentle reminders when you return to the inbox, but to avoid habituation by making them irregular and brief.
They could include:
* “You have 7 Today items”
* “You have 2 Overdue items”
* “You have 20 Action items over a week old”

They can also include a quick (and smartly calculated) link to only look at the oldest 20 items in any list (e.g. the oldest 20 Actions); to give you a manageable chunk to bite off.

They would run on different schedules – with Today/Overdue appearing at least once a day; and others much less frequently.

Ever-Present Multiple Inboxes (AIB Aware)

Think Gmail Lab’s Multiple Inboxes without the hassle; and designed to ensure you always have constant overview of your active items.

Knowing What You’ve Processed Today

I’m not sure if this would be too visually cluttered, but one idea would be to mark each row in the sidebar – perhaps with a blue orb – if you have NOT viewed it since you started your day.

So, every new day, everything would be marked with a blue orb (or an ‘unread’ colour on the link); and when you view it, it changes to mark as viewed.

The idea is to give you a routine for a daily review – the means to know what you have and haven’t processed.

But the trade off is in the details – it’s visually cluttered; it could be annoying (“I don’t want to look at that one!”); and it’s hard to know what it means to have “viewed” something. For example, ‘Today’ items. Does it mean you’ve just looked at the list of Today emails? That you’ve loaded one Today conversation? Or you’ve loaded all Today conversations?

Firing up the discussion…

A few questions to help me prioritize and know if we’re on the right path here:

1) How would you rank their order for development?
2) If you could only have 1, which would it be?
3) And have you ever thought about things that would definitely help you stay on top? (Let’s bring them into the discussion)


This was written by Andy Mitchell