ActiveInbox has had the ability to deadline an email for about 2 years now, and its limitations have come to light in the form of lots of discussions on the forum and in email. Let’s see if we can add to it, refine it, or – dare I say it – even remove it as a default feature (and relegate it to preferences).

What we’ve worked out with your help is that there isn’t just a ‘deadline’, there are in fact…

3 date related things for an email

1) Bring It Back / Snooze / Postpone It

Someone has said something is starting in 2 weeks. Until it starts, you simply don’t care. So you want it “out of sight” until 2 weeks have gone by. Zap it away and let the system bring it back.

There’s something critically important from your boss, but you don’t have time right now. One option is to have it come back to your attention in 3 hours.

You need to get some information from a colleague, and if they don’t reply in 2 days, you need to be reminded to chase them up.

2) Deadline It

The person in the email says they want a report by Monday next week, so you want to see on your radar as next Monday approaches.

(Some people use ActiveInbox as their main task manager, where emails are the tasks, for which being able to deadline those tasks is obviously important).

3) It’s an event

A customer wants a phone call at 10am tomorrow. I believe anything with a date AND a time is an event, and really belongs in GCal.

The Decision of Interruption (returning to your inbox) Vs. your Trusted System

My gut instinct is that “bring it back to my inbox!” is the best method to ensure I don’t forget anything.

But if I stop to think about it, it isn’t optimal: it simply adds more fluff to the thing I’m trying to keep empty, and isn’t well organised. (It’s the equivalent of a child throwing a ball at your head because it wants attention – it might kind of work, but isn’t necessarily going to translate to you helping the child).

So we need to improve the Review Bar and process to ensure you always see Today items.

Conclusion: I think it’s more relaxing for us all to trust in our system’s interface than be interrupted in the inbox.

Going back to the above use-cases…

If you’re postponing something for a few hours because “it must be done Today”, I think it’s far better to have your Today items permanently shown at the bottom of your inbox, aka Multiple Inboxes. Always in your line of sight.

If you need a reminder to check an email you’re Waiting On in 2 days, something is more deeply broken, and we need to improve the ease/frequency with which you see your Waiting On items.

Choices for improving our Deadline feature

A) Have both a “Snooze” and a “Deadline” button

I don’t want to do this (but I will if there’s a very persuasive argument). I think it’s confusing. There is a big decision to make about each email (“do I do nothing [delete], do I bring it back later, do I deadline it, do I action it, do I export it to gcal?”).

The Snooze button could be just a date, or a specific period of time (as shown in the example). If it’s time-based, there’s only one choice for delivery – which is to return it to your inbox. Again, I’m reluctant to do this without a tremendous use-case.

And I fear if we built this, we’d have to raise the price of ActiveInbox to handle the extra maintenance cost.

B) Select, per email, whether a Deadline postpones or is a real deadline

If you postpone, it disappears from all lists until the day it’s due (or it’s overdue). If it’s a deadline, it’s on your radar as the deadline approaches.

Notice there is no time choice here.

I do find this elegant. But my concern is that it’s a difficult decision to make per email – i.e. another cognitive burden.

C) Just have a Snooze button to postpone, and no Deadline capability

Do we agree that deadlines don’t really apply to individual emails? (The division here is whether you use ActiveInbox to manage email, or to be a task manager where the tasks are stored as emails.)

D) Snooze-like selections in Deadline

This gives the “fling into the future” feel of snooze, but is still the Deadline button. Essentially it’s a more useable Deadline button.

Note there’s still no time choices. If you want to “snooze for 2 hours” I think it’s best to mark it “Today”, and rely on our in-development “Today” section that’ll be added to the top/bottom of the Inbox to keep things in view.

What do you think?

We have to make a hard decision about the future of deadlines in ActiveInbox.

Therefore it’s vital to understand why you use them (real examples please!), the frustrations you have with them; or why you don’t use deadlines?

Can you also reveal what you use ActiveInbox for — to manage emails, or as your main task manager?

Categorised in:

This post was written by andymitchell9496

52 Comments

  • I use gmail as my main task manager. I already today use multiple inboxes to see what I have to do today. 

    I prefer B – select per email whether a deadline postpone or is a real deadline.

  • Susan Penter says:

    I really like D as it would serve my split purposes well but Definitely not C, there are items that I very specifically need to do one a day ie pay a bill or unlock someone’s web access etc They are items that have to be done on a specific day but have no time allocation therefore I don’t want to link them to my calendar, this is more for places I have to be at set times rather than anything i have to do on my computer.

    As well as specific dates I also would like the ability to snooze things though. At the moment I do this by setting the date as tomorrow but this is not really accurate as the item doesn’t have to be tomorrow I just don’t want to do it now and don’t want to leave it in my inbox and equally I’m reluctant to add the action label on it’s own and add it to a growing mountain. 

  • Arek says:

    I use ActiveInbox as main task manager and the “Deadline” button alone was the main reason I bought ActiveInbox. I opt for D option as it will be the best for me. Please consider one change – do not put there “tomorrow”, “2 days” and “Next Week” buttons, but “+1 day”, “+1 week”, “+1 month” buttons and when you click such a button do not hide the dropdown. Such a buttons should add specific time from today. 

    For example if I have the deadline for 15th of October and today I click “+1 day” three times it will be postponed to 27th of October.

    Once I developed windows application for managing tasks and such a buttons proven to be real time saver for users – you simply do not have to think “what will be the date in 3 days?” when you postpone tasks.

    • Arek, this is tremendous – if we go down something similar to the D route, this will certainly happen. 

      • Arkadiusz Stanoszek says:

        There is no mistake in my previous answer 🙂  My idea was that those buttons first time add the time from *today*. Example:

        1. I write email.
        2. I want to snooze it for 3 days, so I click “+1 day”, the calendar changes to 25th of October, “+1 day” again, the calendar changes to 26th, “+1 day” again and calendar changes to 27th.
        3. I click “send”

        A week passes without doing anything. It is 31st of October. I open the thread.
        1. I write the follow-up email.
        2. I want to snooze it for 3 days again so I open the calendar (it is set to 27th now), I click “+1 day” and it sets to *1st of November*, again “+1 day” and it sets to 2nd of November, again “+1 day” and it sets to 3rd of November.
        3. I click “Send”.

        The trick is that you never want to snooze to some date in the past, so why first click of “+1 day” should set 28th of October, when now is 31st of October?

        I do not exactly understand the example you provided in your answer, the mockup would be the best.

    • Arek says:

      One more thing – I think that typically you “snooze” threads much more often than “deadline” them, so snoozing should be default behavior.

      I do that now to remember about follow-ups, exactly like in scenario described by you – “you need to get some information from a colleague, and if they don’t reply in 2 days, you need to be reminded to chase them up.”. It’s extremely useful.

      • A preference to make ‘Snooze’ be checked by default is smart.

        And I really want to understand more about why you want to mark something as both Waiting On and “In 2 Days”? In an ideal world, you’d trust the system’s Waiting On list and check it regularly. Why doesn’t this happen?

        What would be fantastic is if the system automatically removed the ‘Waiting On’ (or changed it to ‘Action’) when they reply; so that you can scan your Waiting On list, see “Oh, that’s over 2 days old”, and chase it up. What do you think of that?

      • Arkadiusz Stanoszek says:

        I do not use “Waiting On” status. Why? Because for now “snoozing” thread (by “deadline” button with calendar as it exists now) means that I wait for something and I do not need to set specific “Waiting On” status.

        My scenario now is:
        1. I write the email.
        2. I expect answer in 2 days, so I deadline it as 26th of October and click Send.
        3. I click “Today”, so such an email is out of my sight and I can focus only on threads included there.

        When the time comes I simply have all the threads I should follow up in my “Today” list which I check regularly, so I do not feel the need of checking regularly also the “Waiting On” list, which would be very long and distracting.

        I do not use also the “Action” status. Why? The same reason – when something is in my “Today” list means that the action is needed ASAP.

        This way, every day I can focus only on two lists – “Today” and “Inbox”. Sometimes I process “Next” and “Some Day” (once a week ideally).

        So as you see automatic change of status “Waiting On” to “Action” is useless in my scenario, somebody who uses them should answer your question.

  • Nathan Sudds says:

     I’ll just give my first glance response and then hopefully come back for a more detailed look… but I am also feeling that D would work best for me too.  I like the Snooze nature of getting something out of your view until it’s time but also agree that I don’t really need “2 hours from now” type reminders at the moment…. I have used Boomerang for this from time to time, if you add something like that… I’d agree that it should probably hook into the Today features and maybe launch an on-screen type growl message or trigger an email to come back to the inbox (so that mobile can also benefit from it).  But in my use, if it’s a time sensitive thing for a future date then I subscribe to Andy’s thinking that this goes onto the Google Calendar and has it’s own predefined reminder schedules that connect to my Mobile device calendar reminders, etc.

    I do feel that bringing emails back can be a bit of an annoyance for instance I find that when I’ve had them come back (using a tool like Boomerang for instance) — I often feel it’s come back and still isn’t time yet, and so I Boomerang it again.  Creating what someone called “fluff” … that being said they do at least get me to think about those emails and address the ones that are relevant… so having a way to have them not return if someone has already replied (meaning I would have alread re-assessed them at that time hopefully).  

    I’d personally be open to a “light” interruption built into AIB that from time to time pops up and says — do you want to do 5 mins of processing your Waiting On … Next Actions,… or… Due Dates… when AIB sees that the amount is building up.  Triggering us to do a bit of a mini review at intervals on different parts of our system could be considered nagging but I’d be definitely open to it and especially if it could be done creatively and alternate around some of the key areas that get stuck and only when I’m not maintaining it.  i.e. you can manually set thresholds… when I get 20 next actions… ask me … when I get… 40 waiting on … if a project has more than x actions or due dates… ask me to review etc.   Using some of the analytic data that is available due to the review bar etc.. and even cross evaluations too…. for example you only have 10 waiting on but one of them is now x old, are these still waiting on or do they need to be bumped, removed, etc.

    Anyway … I think that if we could have the deadline/snooze/ returning to inbox type features…. and also some more proactive triggers to do short bursts of review… that would be great.  My wife actually inspired me in this, she’s gets the idea that if she wants to do something she enjoys… she challenges herself to kill X next actions first… say 10 … and then in a way she’s gamified the whole system.

    Thanks again to Andy, the team and everyone else contributing the wealth of knowledge here so that AIB can continue to improve.

  • Andreas Neustifter says:

    Same as with Arek “Waiting On” with deadlines is maybe the most used AIB feature I use. I use a Google Drive Script (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0At7_0Rk-p4m0dGw0MDVMbXVJNXE5QV9uakZRdjBZN3c) that labels todays items as “C/Today” and overdue items as “C/Overdue”. 
    I have multiple inboxes (“Inbox”, “Today/Overdue”, “Next”, “Mailing Lists”, “Someday”) so my GMail home screen serves as my cockpit for due and next tasks. 
    I used this setup since 01/2011 during planing our wedding and building our house and it works great.

    • Arkadiusz Stanoszek says:

      Andreas,

      The script you mentioned seems interesting, unfortunately “That is not a valid spreadsheet URL”. Could you please describe it more and post valid link?

      • Andreas Neustifter says:

        Sorry, sharing the script seems not as easy as I tought, but here is a short description in pseudo code:

        iterate over all emails e labeld “Today”:
           remove label “Today” from e
           add label “Overdue” to e

        iterate over all emails e labeld “Tomorrow”:   remove label “Tomorrow” from e   add label “Today” to eiterate over all emails e labeld with tomorrows date:
           add label “Tomorrow” to e

        The full script can be found here: http://pastebin.com/hhL0ZuYc
        This script is scheduled to run once a day to update the labels, then they show up in one of my multiple inboxes.

  • Ian Gadd says:

    Hi Andy,

    Either B or D would work for me: I like the elegance of B although I would also like a way of being able to see the emails that were ‘snoozed’ in some way, in the same way that ‘Upcoming’ does for deadlines. (When I do the weekly review, I might want to de-snooze or change the length of the snooze.)

    I currently use deadlines in all three ways you outline.

    1. To postpone — ie ‘act on this when I’m back in the office on Monday’ or ‘chase this up if I’ve not heard anything’. Yes, for the latter I could set the status to Waiting On or Action but I use this with particular important individuals who I need to check-in with relatively regularly. All that said, I don’t ‘postpone’ many emails this way–maybe half a dozen a week.

    2. Things that must be done on a particular deadline. I review ‘Today’ and ‘Tomorrow’ every day, and ‘Upcoming’ every week, so I can plan ahead. Some of these emails may also have set as ‘action’ as well: the deadline simply reminds me that it needs to be done by this date, when I do my daily review of the Action list. I use this a fair bit.

    3. If I have a meeting on a particular day, I often have up to a dozen emails related to the meeting that I want to have easily to hand for consultation. So, setting the deadline and project means that the emails are neatly grouped for the meeting. (The emails may not all be from the same person or have the same topics; often they are emails that are not otherwise actioned in that there’s nothing I can do with them until the meeting.) I confess that I’ve never really used the GCal button in AIB, so maybe I’m missing a trick. (The deadline date also makes it easy to pull together the relevant emails if I’m on a mobile device.)  I use this a lot.

    A version of 3: if I have hotel bookings or flight times, I will deadline them to the date of travel. That way, if there’s any problem at the hotel or airport, I can easily locate the relevant email.

    Ian

    • Hi Ian,

      On #3, does that mean for those dozen emails that you manually deadline each one? Ouch! I want to do more about that by empowering the Project labels… more on that in a different post 🙂

      PS That’s a good tip re:flight info, I never thought of that!

      • Ian Gadd says:

        Yes, I do manually deadline each one, but these emails do come in at different times from different people. 

        To give a specific example: I’m an officer with an organisation separate from work, and every 3-4 weeks I have a Skype meeting with the leader of that organisation. Any emails I receive related to that organisation are assigned to different projects, depending on their actual outcome (governance, conferences and so on), and are given statuses according to what I need to do (if anything). However, any email that comes in that I think deserves review during our regular meeting is then also given the date of that meeting.

        Thinking about it, I suppose I am using the deadline feature here like a version of ‘snooze’: not so much just remind me in two weeks but rather, on this specific date, please bring together all these emails for me to review as part of a specific meeting. 

      • BradCouper says:

        I have a similar requirement to yours Ian and mostly use deadlines as a way of grouping a collection of topics, notes and information to be prepared for meetings.

        An example, I have a weekly work in progress meeting with each of my my team members. I group all e-mails that are related to them by having a project label with their name and then the deadline set for the date of my next meeting. That way the emails are all grouped together on the day I need them.

        And yes Andy, all manually assigned and then changed if needed (but at least I can batch reassign them – thanks!)

        In option C Andy, you ask do deadlines apply to an individual e-mail – absolutely they do. This is probably because, as you mention, the struggle between using a tasking list or AIB for deadlines and managing tasks.

        I do struggle with this because I handle 50 – 70 actionable e-mails a day plus many dozens of other to-do points triggered from meetings. Because of this I work off both a to-do list (GQueues) and e-mail (AIB). Both of these allow me to create deadlines and assign to different projects. So yes, it is important to have deadlines, I do need to be able to see them as upcoming e-mails so I can modify the dates as required (so snooze & hiding not interesting for me).

        All up – Option B or D is the go for my work flows.

      • Dear Andy, if you want to “empower” the project label, how about making it finally easier to change a certain project label into a context or reference label and vice versa?! (while NOT using the dreaded basic Google “solution”) I am waiting for this since a long time. Call me spoiled, but right now it is too tedious to doctor around with the AI labels that I unfortunately created in ancient times and lacking much of a long-term plan and organization in terms of optimal Active Inbox leveraging.

        The thing is, obviously I also have e-mails labelled that are “done”, but it is crucial that they keep their label (even if I change it from context to reference type or vice versa), so for me I – as you put it perfectly – need a TRUSTED system, in which I can manage my labelled e-mails, but also the labels(ystem) itself.

  • Alex says:

    I vote for C as I don’t really put task that has a deadline in Gmail; I always put them in GCal. 

  • Thomas Parslow says:

    I have a single use for the Deadline button. I sometimes reply to
    emails with “I’ll think about this and get back to you on Wednesday”
    or something similar, I usually do that because I know I have some
    spare time on Wednesay and/or I’ll be working on the project that
    email is in relation to on that day so it’ll be easier to answer
    without too much context switching.

    So I want to make sure that I see it on the deadline day. That does’t
    mean it has to come back to my inbox though, I just want to makes sure
    I see it on that day so that I can either reply or write a note saying
    that I’ll be a little longer.

    So if it could assigning the deadline could remove it from my action
    lists until that date that would be good. But I’d also like a new view
    that shows me all future deadline’d emails so that I can review them
    if I want to know what’s coming up.

  • JochenSchuetze says:

    Hello Andy,
    in order to be unbiased, I’d like to share some thoughts I had recently about AIB deadlines before I read your blog post:

    I use deadlines heavily — I really, really depend on them, so please do not change them so much that it would heavily disrupt my workflow:

    — For “Waiting On” items, I use them to be reminded myself at a time when I should remind the person that I’m waiting for.

    — For things I cannot / do not want to start working on before a given date, I just set a deadline, without a Status.

    — For things I need to do ASAP, I set “Next”, usually without a deadline.

    — For things that I need to get done before a given date, and which I can start to work on at any time, but need not necessarily do so immediately, I set both “Action” and a deadline.

    This last category is the difficult one for me, because I need to decide what deadline to set in AIB: How many days before that date at which the task must be completed do I want to be reminded by AIB? In other words, how many days will I need in the worst case to complete the task before the given date? But that’s something I’m afraid AIB can hardly help me with…

    Does this help you in your decision making?
    If you need me to try to correlate this with the ideas you’ve shared in this blog post, please do let me know know.
    Best, J.

    • Mike Burke says:

      This is pretty much spot-on with my usage (save for “Next”, which I don’t use at all in lieu of just using “Action”)

    • Hi Jochen,

      For Waiting On… is the “time a person should reply by” always the same? I.e. if they haven’t replied in 2 days, do something? If it is, I wonder if there’s something better we can do so you don’t need to click “Waiting On AND Deadline”. For example, a view that shows you “All Waiting On items over 2 days old”. 

      Why do you set Action AND Deadline? At the moment, if you deadline something, does it not just show up in Upcoming? 
      I think this is where adding ‘Snooze’ will help, so you can decide if you deadline something whether it’s visible in Upcoming or not. That should mean you no longer need to Action as well.

      As for not being able to predict the “right time” for when something should appear in Upcoming, would it help if everything in the ‘Upcoming’ section was always sorted by due-date? That way, the top items would be due soonest, and you could work as deeply into the list as you feel necessary.

      • JochenSchuetze says:

        Hello Andy,
        first, I really admire the diligence with which you answer all our messages!!
        For your questions:

        For me, different “Waiting On…” items have very different time intervals between the day I archive them and the day on which I want them to appear in the “Today” list and, at least the (most) important ones, maybe in my Inbox as well: There’s everything between one day (tomorrow) and three months…

        Clicking both “Waiting On” and a deadline really is not a problem for me at all — I do in fact like it very much this way, because they’re so straight-forward attributes. (Sometimes response to my mouse clicks in the horizontal action bar is a bit sluggish, though…)

        Why both Action and Deadline:I set Action because it’s something I want to show up permanently (until Finished) in Active Results, and it’s neither Next nor Someday — I really must do it (before a certain due date). I add a deadline because, when I review my ToDo list(s) (which I’m not very good at doing every day) I don’t want to have to ponder every time for every item whether it’s already urgent that I start to work on it. I want things to come up to the surface by themselves as they become urgent. Therefore, I give them a deadline that is a suitable number of days before the task’s real due date. Again, this number of days can vary widely, depending on the nature of the task.

        I must confess that I haven’t really started to use Upcoming, and I’m not sure how to best adopt it. I believe it’s something I don’t really need in my workflow. 

        As things take different amounts of time, I need them to pop up different numbers of days before their due dates. Therefore, I need to set a deadline a well-chosen, individual number of days before the task’s actual due date.

              Once that’s done, I love to have them in my Action list so that I can start to work on them as soon as there’s nothing urgent and nothing more important any more; but I also need them to come up to the surface (i.e. the Today list and perhaps my Inbox) when the due date has approached so much that I really ought to start working on them.
        _________________________

        A word about your “Snooze”: I guess this is quite similar to what I do when I apply a deadline only: I don’t want these things to appear in the Action list, because I cannot even start to work on them yet. When I finally can start to work on them, I want them to automatically appear in the Today list (because of the deadline). Then I set them to Action and give them a new deadline — the latest day I must start to work on them in order to get them done in time for the real due date.

        This works beautifully for me, and I really don’t need any change, i.e. please try to not break my (and other’s) existing workflow(s).

        Hope this helps.
        Best regards,
        Jochen

  • Paul Norris says:

    D is definitely the one for me.  I use this primarily to bring order to when I respond to emails or when I need the information in them.  So to be able to put a specific date on it is crucial.

  • Johannes says:

    I use ActiveInbox as my task manager. Every mail is a task, therefore I set deadlines on specific dates to come back to items. Sometimes, when items show up, I might not be able to tackle them at once, and therefore program another date to review or work on them again. Having to make a decision about snoozing the item or postpone it without being able to see it on any list, would not be practical for me.

    • If we had a specific “Snoozed” list (and thus you could always review Snoozed items, they’d just not be in your normal deadlines), would that become more useful to you?

      Or would you simply never Snooze anything?

      Also, because you push deadlines back regularly, what do you think of Arek’s idea to have a “+1 day, +1 week” button to relatively shift things?

  • I have been using Boomerang for a couple of years now and love it just for the “return to inbox” functionality. When it is a  time-specific event, like a meeting or a webinar, the email with the ink that I need is right there, in the inbox, a couple of hours before the event. I know where to look for it. My inbox is zero almost every day, so I can see those emails easily.  The system works great for me.

    I also return to inbox some emails that are “waiting for” so I check in on those. I have a huge list of “waiting for” that I review weekly, but some items need to be looked at more often or at specific times.

    So, overall, I love the idea of “return to inbox” functionality.

    • Hi Lyena,

      I confess I’m biased against things returning to the inbox or having times… so please accept this as an invitation to prove me wrong! 

      If your list of “Today” items was always visible in the Inbox (as a different section), would it solve the use-case of being prepared for a meeting? You could just say “show me this Tuesday – meeting day”, and it’ll be on the list, then after the meeting, you could click ‘Done’ and it disappears. Why would that be insufficient?

      As for Waiting On – does that list need to be huge? Or is it more a matter of it “building up with old items”? If we could make the Waiting On status disappear when someone replies, would your list be a lot shorter, and thus not need individual items to carry a higher priority?

      And with the Waiting On – do you just deadline for a day, or specific times? If it’s a time, can you give me a real example of why you’d do that? 

      •  Andy,
        Your solution to keep “Today” items visible in the Inbox will work for me. See? Good compromize.

        As far as “Waiting On” lists, I have to have long ones. I coordinate multiple teams and projects. I delegate a lot, which comes with follow-up responsibility. I need to be reminded at specific intervals that someone did not get back to me or updated me on the status of their project. I do use “if nobody responds” option, but often there are several people on the email thread and a response I get is from the wrong person or not satisfactory. So, I keep “Waiting on” tag on the email and bounce it back to the inbox later.

        I usually do not need to have a specific time on “Waiting On” emails, but I use it.  Here is a hypothetical scenario.  I have meetings in the morning until 11am, then I am having another one at 2pm. I would return some “waiting on” emails to my inbox at noon, so they are not cluttering my inbox before I can take a look at them and do something about them.

      • Hi Lyena, 

        I’m really interested in trying to understand your middle scenario more — having Waiting On for multiple projects. 

        I’m wondering if Waiting On can be split by project folder or person? So you click ‘Waiting On’, and then see all the project folders that contain Waiting On items. Do you use project folders? Would that help?

        Perhaps we could go further, and colour code the Waiting On items. So, the older a Waiting On item gets with no response, the more brightly it shines red (initially it does not shine red). Old = bright red. That means you could scan each project in Waiting On, and see which contain bright red emails that need attention. 

        Alternatively, what if we were to add deadlines to project folders? So, you could say “give this project attention in 2 days”, then in 2 days, be reminded to view the project, at which point you’d see all the Waiting On emails within it. It’s a very different way of working… would it fit your workflow?

        ####

        As for your other scenario – the 11am finish and 2pm start. I’m wondering if we can use the “Today section in Inbox” for this too…

        So, if you have a Waiting On item, and you deadline it for the day of the 2 meetings, it would appear in your Today list, but under the ‘Waiting On’ sub-section. It’s a much shorter list than your main Waiting On view, so it should be much simpler to scan.

        Another choice would be to give each meeting a project folder, so you can just look at ‘Waiting On’, and see the two meeting folders and their emails.

      •  I see where you are going with this, Andy. But for me, it is getting too complicated. I have to scan by project or by person and then decide. Similarly, I would need to scan everything to see the “glowing” color tabs, so I will have to monitor them constantly. Also, I will need to customize the settings for each.

        Things change quickly in my world and what if the requirements change? Then, I have to go into the projects again, hunt down the email and adjust the settings. Too complicated. My way is simpler: I put what I am waiting on in notes as well as next action that is held up. When the email shows up in inbox, I know exactly what needs to be done or modify the note. Love the notes, by the way!

        Including “waiting on” in my inbox might work, but I will constantly need to go below the fold and check. I like my system better. I get about 700-1K emails a day. I live in my inbox, so perhaps, that’s why I trust it the most to bring something to my attention when it needs to be attended to.

      • 700 emails a day! Wow, ok, I think that’s a new record 🙂

        So to be clear, you don’t put things into projects now? (I’m just interested to clarify your workflow). 

        In your way of working – where emails matter above all else – I think the ability to see “Related” emails will help you. So, you go into an email from Jane, and there is a note, and you click the proposed ‘Related’ button, whereupon a box pops up showing you all recent emails with Jane – and their notes. All communication with Jane in one place.

        I think for now, keep using Boomerang for bringing stuff back at specific times. But we’ll be revisiting this subject again after the next round of improvements, at which point time might become an option.

      • I do use project tags and context tags and status tags.  I do not need “related” emails because Gmail groups them for me. Each set is about one topic. My note reflects the actions I need to take regarding that topic. I almost never review the actual email. I also do not need to find the actual email to respond. I know Jane’s email address so I can send her a completely new email if I need to.

        I also review projects once a week, where I look at all emails related to a project.  With your nifty plugin, I do not need to look at each email individually – I see them grouped, with notes showing. All it takes is a quick look.

        Thank you for taking time to understand my work flow. I am a very happy customer of yours and whatever changes you make, they are always for the best. Thanks!

  • Francesco Ragazzi says:

    Hi !
    The deadline feature is the reason why I bought AIB in the first place! You remove it and loose me instantly as a customer! 

    I use email as task management and I personally think it is the future of email. Every email is a task, why do more people not work like that? So, if I understand correctly, option D would mean deadlines + the possibility of snoozing. I would go for that. 

    My workflow is the following: in the morning I review all tasks due for today. In the AIB viewer, I then sort them out by order of importance by giving a label to each of them (Urgent ( unexpected urgent tasks), Today (planned tasks for the day), Soon. With “multiple inbox” turned on and showing these tasks sorted by label, they are all visible until I do them and remove them from the list by removing the label and the deadline. This is how they disappear from my multiple inbox and from my AIB list.

    At the end of the day, incomplete tasks are given a new deadline (but I must also remove the label so that they disappear from Multiple Inbox).

    TO SUM UP:
    – Deadlines are key to every way I use AIB.
    – I opt for option D
    – If you are thinking about deadline, in fact you should do even more with them! 
    – A great feature would be a better integration with Multiple Inbox, or, let’s be crazy, your own redesign of MI so that it can be directly integrated with AIB (and therefore be more flexible).
    – Another great feature would be for example to be able to see all deadlined tasks on a weekly or monthly calendar (as in teux deux for ex.) and be able to move them around….

  • Frank Heinen says:

    I didn’t read all comments but IMO the concept you describe of 1 and 2 is not completely correct. I’ve been working now for 1,5 years with this tool and I have TONS of tasks (average up to 50 a day). What I see is that you have tasks that need to be done in a time span but become increasingly more important in time as the time span is passing. 
    And secondly you have tasks you need to do that have a real deadline that cost X time to process but you want to start in time.In total this means IMHO:
    1 – A task has a start date (when the tasks first “pops up, see below) and a due date (like now)
    2 – A task list (today list) must be a dynamic list that has must do and optional tasks.
    Optional tasks are tasks that are passed the start date and before the deadline. Based on how many percent the time window is passed the optional tasks are sorted. So it ends up more and more on top of the optional tasks and in the end in the must do list of today (as the deadline is there).

    In this case only a start date needs to be added. This is an optional field. And in the today list you have a optional list. This makes that task which are nice to do this week but can also be done next week you can set start date beginning of the week and end time end of next week. Then it pops up daily in the optional list and increases to the top based on how much time is passed. If one day you have time left then you will do the most priority optional tasks.

    This does not effect your inbox, keeps your mind clear, does not add much (or nothing) to the workflow (as start date is fully optional) but makes your task list prio depending, managed by AIB and effective.

    I totally don’t like the popup idea / reminder idea / bring back idea. That bring back my horrors of the reminders of MS Outlook with people that had 40 popups on their screen1 #PANIC

    • JochenSchuetze says:

      Hello Frank,
      you seem to think along similar lines as I do, so you (and others) may also want to read / comment on my comments elsewhere in the discussion of this blog post.
      Jochen

  • “But if I stop to think
    about it, it isn’t optimal: it simply adds more fluff to the thing I’m trying
    to keep empty, and isn’t well organised.”

    Exactly, that is why I
    don’t want another “Boomerang” (http://www.boomeranggmail.com/) clone. Whoever
    wants their e-mails bounced back to them at a certain time, can easily
    implement this with the help of half a dozen shady startups.

    “Conclusion: I think
    it’s more relaxing for us all to trust in our system’s interface than be
    interrupted in the inbox.”

    Yes, yes, yes! 🙂

    “If you need a reminder
    to check an email you’re Waiting On in 2 days, something is more deeply broken,
    and we need to improve the ease/frequency with which you see your Waiting On
    items.”

    Not necessarily! “Waiting
    On” is actually worthless to me without a connected deadline, that is what (I
    have) “Someday” for! I almost always connect the “Waiting On” status with a
    deadline, else I couldn’t even filter and process appropriately!!

    About “Snooze”: We all know
    how well it works with our alarm clocks in the morning. It doesn’t! I can’t remember the
    rare time “snooze” did anything for me. Either I get up on my 1st (audible)
    call, or I probably oversleep. 😉 You – and ActiveInbox for that matter – are not
    responsible for working around people’s bad habits. If an e-mail (reminder)
    annoys you, don’t you just delete it? I delete all my deadline and calendar
    notifications – granted I took note of them! But it is easy as well to just
    ignore them. Or filter them away. …

    “And I fear if we built
    this, we’d have to raise the price of ActiveInbox to handle the extra
    maintenance cost.”

    Again, please no thanks!
    I want to tell you something: My biggest chunk of labeled e-mails is in “Waiting
    On”, over 200 e-mails. But is it my fault? Is it really bad?? I simply e-mailed
    a lot of OUTGOING e-mails with “Waiting on” and probably 67% of them were
    already answered or resolved OR are not relevant anymore, considering that I
    use ActiveInbox since two years!

    Does no one remember
    the story of Napoleon allegedly only opening his mail 14 days after it arrived?
    He said: “If it’s really important, it will be still important in 14 days” or
    so.

    The same approach
    should be use when fretting about that AI status labels are overflowing with
    e-mails! Nothing bad per se, just a matter of perspective! Sometimes I have 35+
    tabs open in my browser. Some people think I am crazy or unproductive, I think
    I am neither.

    “If you postpone, it
    disappears from all lists until the day it’s due (or it’s overdue). If it’s a
    deadline, it’s on your radar as the deadline approaches.”

    I don’t understand
    this. How is it going to be / come “on your radar” either way? (In both cases.) Especially I don’t understand what is the difference to now? If people are not
    making use of the genius “archive” and filter functions of GMail, why are they
    using GMail and AI ?? My whole process is just: 1. Opening email, 2. Applying AI
    filter, 3. Archiving, 4. Retrieving from AI filter.
    This means that an e-mail with deadline is ALREADY hidden, so why in the world
    would I need another such “new-fangled thingy” that essentially does the same?
    O.o

    “C) Just have a Snooze
    button to postpone, and no Deadline capability”

    Such a thing doesn’t exist? O.o After all, a “snooze” button at least needs a
    programmed-in timeline, i.e. a default “snooze duration” (however you call that…),
    but as you say, I doubt we can generalize all our e-mails to be exactly due in
    the same e.g. +2 days in the future, absolutely absurd.

    “The division here is
    whether you use ActiveInbox to manage email, or to be a task manager where the
    tasks are stored as emails.”

    I don’t use AI as a
    task manager, period. You will lose more subscribers than you will gain if you
    go down this road. I got and get along using any darn task-manager and recently
    “Trello” serves me really well, so why would I need AI as my task manager? Did
    you forget AI has no mobile interface yet? What then if I need my task on
    mobile? Also (mobile ready) to-do managers like “Asana”, ActionMethod,
    Producteev and Weave (and others) get BETTER by the day, so why would I need a
    task manager from someone who is no Pro in creating such software (!!) to add
    to the already senselessly crowded market for to-do managers, which is flooded
    with FAIL.

    I download all my file
    attachments anyways, even if I put off the e-mail itself. But often times, the
    fact that I am using an external task manager luckily forces me to cut out the
    fluff, i.e. just copy the essentials of a communication to my task (manager)
    and delete the original e-mail.

    “D) Snooze-like
    selections in Deadline”

    I don’t get it?? Your
    post get’s confusing. Already now in AI4 there are the “Today, Tomorrow, Start
    of Next Week” deadline fields, what do I need more? Yeah, maybe implement the
    feature requests I sent you, about making the deadline date selection less tedious
    if processing older e-mails… (Did you have a look into my 5+ PDF file?
    Seriously…)

    “We have to make a hard
    decision about the future of deadlines in ActiveInbox.”

    No “we” don’t. As the
    saying goes “Never change a running system” !!!

    I wonder where this blog post came from so suddenly, but I can only strongly
    ask you to use your time more productively, this is going nowhere (hopefully)
    fast!

    To sum it up: Neither
    A-D and (or but?) please don’t base your decision on the few nerds that post a
    comment on your little AI blog, that would be highly unscientific, or in
    practical terms: Will lose you the less vocal customers – or those who are busy
    actually using your product vs. talking or reading about it! 😛

  • Oh **** DISQUS. You probably didn’t post this on the forums because even less people read there, but the lack of formatting in DISQUS drives me nuts.

    Please copy & paste my answers to MS Word and read them in peace, with a Cosmopolitan cocktail in hand. 😉

  • thenuttman says:

    I use more than just AIB (and gmail for that matter) to manage tasks and I have more coming “in” to gmail than just a single flow…different addresses for multiple businesses, client stuff, personal stuff…and other assorted non-sense. 

    I also use a site called Asana; and while not absolutely perfect, the reason I bring it up is because they divide things into 3 main groupings, “Today”, “Upcoming” and “Later”.  Which, to answer your question from my previous comment, is why I use the “Waiting” status A LOT in AIB.  I basically throw stuff in there that I need to deal with…but don’t have time right now.

    Dates are vital to task management in general, so definitely don’t remove it…but the idea of “flinging into the future” with no regard to specific date is also a big deal.  “I wanna do something with this sometime later, remind me in a couple weeks”.  Of your options, I agree with others that D is probably the right way to go; but you could also bring up the calendar and also have an input box allowing normal language “in 2 weeks” or “in 2 hours” to be written?

    “Hiding” an email and reappearing in my inbox until it is due is a neat idea that would be great if you could enable or disable…like, maybe some users want it on the toolbar; but others would prefer it to just re-appear nicely in their inbox.  Having the choice would be great…but speaking of “choice”….let me digress…

    I think you need more tutorial videos and “best use” videos that help to show users good practices and guides to inspire.  Because at the end of the day, everyone thinks their way of managing their tasks; or their idea of how to do it; is the best…either because it works for them or because they don’t know any better.

    So instead of trying to please everyone; make your case for why your approach is the most productive solution; showcase it and show it in action to prove why your methods of keeping “on task” are the best…inspire proper usage instead of attempting to fit everyone’s mold.

    To have users who love, are passionate about and religiously use your product…means you’re gonna have some haters.  That’s okay though.  It’s better than the alternative wherein no one cares.

  • I guess I have a hard time understanding what the issue is or the case for change. I quite like the way it works right now. Basically anything that has to go into the future I either mark as “Some Day” or “Waiting On” or even sometimes “Action” and then tag it with a certain date. Then I have due today, overdue and “Next” on the top bar. My process is to go through inbox, go through over due, go through today and then work on next. I rarely get to items in my “Action” bucket, but the due date feature is very handy for managing priorities and follow ups on things that I have sent to other people.

    So my vote would be to leave it as it is, or D as I think that’s as close to how it works now. 

  • CoolFede. says:

    Hello,

    Thank you for considering us in the decision making process.

    I think that having both the current deadline feature and adding a Snooze feature might be the very best thing you’ll ever add to the product (both).

    Greatest benefit: I would not have to remember to check anything (like the Today, or Next or Action tags). What needs to be dealt with will come back when it’s time to look into it.

    And also I’d really be able to have a 0 mails in Inbox policy. Right now, since I have to count on me being actively clicking to check item in the different categories I don’t really move most items out of the Inbox (which I would really like to do).

    You’d also turn ActiveInbox in a great reminders tool… and help your customers use it for many other tasks which they’re now doing with some other apps.

    You might also plan a feature later to postpone sending of emails or something similar which would mean that I’d have no need for any other Gmail add on but yours. 🙂

    By adding this “return to inbox later” feature (hopefully as much customisable as possible day/month/time/in xx min/in xx hours/in xx days) you’ll be really differentiating yourselves from the rest of the available options in the market.

    And what’s most important, I would definitely pay a few more dollars to have this built into ActiveInbox (and I don’t really pay for this kind of things … ever).

    Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help you guys with this.

    Keep up the great work!
    Fede.

  • Nicolas says:

    I’m fairly satisfied with the way the deadline features work. When there is some kind of deadline, just like you described in the first part of the post.

    However, what I’m not comfortable with is the way to handle “ASAP” stuff. That is, Items with S/Action which shall not have a specific deadline (no ZD/).

    Maybe I missed something important, but here is the frustration I get :
    – if I click on “Today”, I only see items with the current date as ZD (or maybe items which are late, which is fine)
    – if I click on “Action”, I see all actionnalble items, even those with dates in the future, which I don’t care on a daily basis.

    I’d like to have something in the lines of :
    – probably best, a Today screen including Actions without date. Which, according to me, are supposed to be ASAP, and thus, today. Otherwise, I’d label them “Someday” or give them a date.
    – or an Action screen which would let me sort easily between Actions with a date (which exists) and Actions without a date (which doesn’t exist; Actions are just mixed together).

    If there is something obvious I overlooked, I’d be happy to learn about it !

    • JochenSchuetze says:

      Hello Nicolas,
      as you mention “Action” items without a data as “ASAP” — wouldn’t they belong into “Next”?
      How do you use “Next”?
      J.

      • Nicolas says:

        Hi Jochen,

        Not sure what you mean by “Next”. I don’t see any such thing in AIB. You mean that I should create and pin a “Next” Context ?

      • JochenSchuetze says:

        I simply meant the “Next” _status_ — It’s what I understand it most appropriate for highest-priority “ASAP” Action Items…

      • Nicolas says:

        Well…

        First, I’m confused, because for some reason, the “Next” wasn’t created on my AIB installation, and I wasn’t aware of its existence. Sure it does somewhat serve the purpose.

        However, it’s not really the way I’d like it to be : it’s still different from “Action”, whereas I’d rather not. I’d like “Next” to really be “ASAP” and be in the calendar pane. 

        In fact I’d like to choose either Action or Waiting on for an action, and associate it with “an idea of time”, ranging between “ASAP”, some date, or “Some Day”. And of course have the appropriate filtering shortcuts to display the resultats with “Today, Overdue and Next” on the same result set.

      • JochenSchuetze says:

        Hello Nicolas,
        “Next”/”ASAP” in the calender pane sounds like a request for “fuzzy deadlines” — something I don’t know whether Andy really wants to add there. To my understanding, the calendar panel is connected to deadlines that are meant to be used to pull Action(ed) Items back onto your personal radar screen when time has come…

        Once you’ve got the “Next” status (or added your own “ASAP” status..[!]..), you could consider allowing multiple statuses on a single E-mail conversation…

        Or you could add an entirely new Label Type in the AIB Preferences. Question would then be how to best design your personal review process so as to never forget about anything. But that’s all questions I need to leave to you…;-)

  • Jon says:

    I see your point. Isnt deadline like a Tickler?