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?
This was written by Andy Mitchell