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The task manager vs. email manager question. Can ActiveInbox do both?

The task manager vs. email manager question. Can ActiveInbox do both?

A little while back I mused about whether Gmail can be one's trusted system in my blog http://wp.me/pJPKS-4B

When I used Outlook for email I used to use Netcentric's GTD plugin which seems to conceptually be similar to ActiveInBox. Their plugin allows one to have a hybrid email, task, project mgmt framework. Since moving to a browser based world, I've struggled with finding one system. As noted in my blog I used Nozbe, then Toodledo, but always struggled with moving back and forth and I find that my task system gets overlooked because it's not integrated. A few questions:

1-Assuming I give ActiveInbox a try, what kind of impact would this have on my existing labeling scheme? right now I have GTD style labels for context and actions (e.g. @Home or @Office contexts, and #Next Action #Waiting For #Someday), also some project specific labels (prefixed with p -). The labeling scheme and method is derived from Kelly Forrister's article http://www.davidco.com/coaches_corner... I'm nervous about "installing" in the event that I want to back out.

2-Can ActiveInbox work as an effective overall task management system? Because Gmail's task feature is really weak, I end up sending myself emails via bcc as a means of setting up tasks (with filters that automatically tag with labels), and the multiple inbox feature. This mostly works but thing can get a bit buried from view once they get "aged" a bit.

I think the biggest challenge with "systems" oriented add-ons is that they are less easy to just casually try (as opposed to something like a URL shortener extension).

I'd appreciate any feedback on the above...
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  • I’m still unfufilled
    I was just thinking about this last night as I went to bed. I suppose there are other things to fantasize about as your falling asleep, but I dream of integrated task and email management systems.

    I suppose you could create a dummy gmail account and copy your emails over via pop to give it a try. When I tried it, it seemed to just add a bunch of tags with a prefix denoting what type of label it is (i.e. S/Next and P/MyProject). So if anything you'll just need to update your label naming scheme.

    Google tasks are pretty simplistic, I don't know if they could handle GTD. But maybe there'd be a way to integrate two sites into one, a Gmail/Toodledo hybrid.
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  • I’m frustrated
    The Toodledo/Gmail hybrid would be great but I think difficult to accomplish from a security/trust perspective. For the moment, I'm kind of back to running both system side by side with similar label/folder/context set up. Most days I run two browser sessions on different screens, with Toodledo on one screen, and Gmail/Google apps on the other. This is not ideal, because one ends of replicating things, but must do for now.
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  • EMPLOYEE
    I’m energised
    Andy Mitchell (ActiveInbox Founder) August 24, 2010 10:04
    Hi Kendor (and ThatGuyFrodo!),

    This is, possibly, my absolute favourite question. And maybe my most stressful too :)

    You see, for the longest time it's been unanswerable. It really depends so much on the nature of your work. It's also the question I ask the most when people write to me - do you use ActiveInbox to make email more efficient & accountable, or do you use it as a full task manager?

    For new users, I always say it's a way to make email more manageable. It's the simplest to explain, and it can help everyone.

    Personally, this is also what I use it for. I manage "as much as I can" in email (without duplicating those tasks in another system) - something that I only find trustable with ActiveInbox, and export the remaining 20% to our project manager. However, this is because I'm a product guy, and I have to use a project management tool specialised for software development.

    For people who work mainly in communication jobs (sales, marketing, PR, HR, etc.), I think you can almost use ActiveInbox as your complete task manager.

    I believe it makes a lot of sense too, to use Gmail as your main task manager.
    Most tasks are done with people, for people - it's all delivered by conversation. And for a lot of people, most conversation happens with email. (And even if it doesn't, email is a very good way to summarize and record the discussions that have been had on the phone and in meetings).

    Certainly, in the future, we will be developing more features that help make Gmail+ActiveInbox a great task/project manager too (so long as those features also help make email better in general). The most immediately obvious of which is to be able to edit the subject to make it more 'glanceable'.

    What I would love to know is - what do you want? What problems do you face? What is the typical example of a task that you handle through email? What does your daily workflow look like?

    Back to the easier question... ActiveInbox is entirely non-destructive and pretty flexible. It only requests 6 labels to be added: S/Next, S/Action, S/Waiting On, S/Some Day, S/Finished and C/Call. You can choose not to do this. And, you can configure your own prefixes, so if you load Preferences, you can change the Status prefix to # (so the label will be #Next).

    If you ever uninstall, just delete any labels you don't want (ActiveInbox will not automatically delete anything, in case you want to keep it).
    • When I look at my list of "Action" statuses or "Waiting on" statuses, I would like to see right in that list more information about that item. For instance, if I'm Waiting on something, who am I waiting on, and what? If there's an Action status, I want to know at a glance what is the Next Action. That's the essence of GTD.

      The workarounds right now are, a combination of the following:
      1. Reply to yourself and add more info. Problem is, it's not always at the bottom of the list, so you have to scroll around in the thread to see where it is. Solution to this is to Star it.
      2. It doesn't show up in the list of next actions. So you have to open each thread to find the star'ed item to determine what is the next action.

      The other thing I would like to do is sort by deadline.
    • I only need 1 thing added to make AI + Gmail complete ... timed Efforts.

      The idea comes from taskcoach.org (nifty tool) and you time individual efforts each time you log work on a project. I'm a graphic designer and use this feature in order to bill clients by time spent (Efforts).
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  • Ok. I'd like also to say something in the task case...

    This is the only reason why I came to your forum. I use AI for a 6 month and I'm almost satisfied. I think this is a great email management add-on but it could have only a few features more to fits all my needs.

    I'm responssible for different cases... marketing campaigns, sales, construction and studio building. And many times a day I need to let to do something my workers what is a part of a big project. It would be great if I could share/add task to their google accouts and connect it to the project.

    Second thing is "connections". Possibility of building project tree and attach to it emails tasks with dates notes etc. would make my work much more easy.
    Also possibility of scharing parts of project with other workers would help.
    I'm useing MyMind software to build conceptions and such a feature i wouldlike see in AI :)

    If you decide to develop AI as "email only" manager it still would be great as your tool is one of my favorite. But it also have a great bakcgroud to do something biger and better.

    In any case keep rock'in guys
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  • 1
    I remember back days when ActiveInbox was called GTDInbox that there was a "compose to self" button that accelerated the workaround you use:
    it just sent an email to yourself, tagging it in advance so it goes directly to the right place...

    I don't know why you removed it, maybe it looked weired to people who just use ActiveInbox for managing emails (and not also tasks)

    anyway, keep up the good works, guy!
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  • I came here to see if you offered other products!! With the gmail addon you seem to be in tune with how I use email, and how important it is to stay on top of it. I always keep a zero inbox and its wonderful to feel like someone else understands my workflow. So - I was looking for another export solution to a more project-based solution.

    Like you, I export information to a PM. However, I have to export 90% of email to a PM. So it would make sense to have them together. I've tested online apps for nearly a month now looking for that integrated solution. The solutions that are capable don't seem to get that it is 90% email based and require BCC and FWD to the program. Where really - I need an email/project solution.

    Perhaps someone has heard of one?

    Thanks for this great email addon. At least I wont loose emails anymore!
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  • I’m happy
    Hey there I used a brilliant task manager that combines both task management and email management perfectly. It's called Dooster check it out here www.dooster.net
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  • I’m confident
    Well, I'm using it as a true GTD task manager.

    Next actions are starred, have projects, references and all. My personal life was already in gmail, my work like implies that I forward email to gmail but at least I have my system fully working and acessible anywhere and offline.
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  • I’m thankful
    I'm not a true believer in GTD but the things that are most useful for me (Projects and Next Actions) are implemented readily by ActiveInbox and I use it to manage all my personal projects with it.
    I like it so much that I wish I could use it for my cooperate projects too. (Due to security considerations this is sadly not possible tough.)
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  • I use it for both. I couple this with multiple inboxes and I upgraded to plus so I have the calendar/date tracking features which I use as ticklers. Each day I decide what I am going to work on based upon the items in the "today" bin, I set them as "Action" and for items that I am not going to work on today I pick another date to be reminded. In Gmail I have an inbox specified for "Action" tasks so my list of items to do is there and easy to get to. I also created an inbox for items I'm waiting on someone for and an inbox for all emails in "draft" status. With that I am pretty effectively able to manage my email and translate those into action items that I can work on today.
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  • I use it for both. At work I use Outlook structured around the free "GTD and Outlook 2007" guide available from David Allen Co. I like AIB because it's configurable to be very close to this setup.

    The gap in AIB as a task manager is between labeling the e-mail and creating a true actionable task. I prefer to define the action at first glance, then work with the actions instead of with the e-mail. In Outlook I drag the e-mail to the Tasks pane and an Outlook task pops up with the e-mail text that I can add labels to, add info, rename, etc.

    It isn't *that* hard to e-mail myself a renamed e-mail. What's missing from AIB is the ability to do this quickly, possibly without opening the e-mail, and avoid the step of manually removing the self-sent email from the inbox.

    Step 1: Select e-mail, e.g. "From: Mom, Subject: Hello, Body: Your Cousin's birthday is next week..."
    Step 2: Press a magic button
    Step 3: Type in task name, e.g. "Buy Birthday card for cousin"
    Step 4: Assign status, context, etc.
    Step 5: Okay
    • view 1 more comment
    • First off, I see no difference between an actionable e-mail and a “bigger task,” or even a task that needs to be performed outside Gmail. So even if I had an actionable e-mail, in my mind it would have to have a task assigned (Reply to ...) in the same system as any other task (Buy ...), otherwise my system breaks. GTasks lacks “dashboard” view that I can find, and no search (WTF?). Tasks cannot be added directly to a list, the list must be selected first. It feels like a clunky bolt-on, which is odd because AIB *is* a bolt-on and feels more native to Gmail. I’m still choosing to perform the steps I outlined manually because it feels natural, I trust where they’ll end up, and I trust that I’ll look at them. Even at work where I haven’t installed AIB I manually apply the necessary labels. The thing GTasks does well is allow naming the task while linking the e-mail/event, but other than that I don’t like the implementation. Off the subject, Gmail is a big win because of labels, and I’ve never understood why Google didn’t propagate labeling to all of their services.
    • Andy/OP,
      I stumbled onto the AIB as task manager guide at http://www.activeinboxhq.com/gmail-ta.... I had never heard of gmail plus addressing before. I set up contacts for @ACTION, @WAITING, etc. that are "myemail+status@domain.com", set filters to label accordingly and immediately archive. That removed several steps from the process.
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  • We use Dooster which of course as a task manager automatically files your emails in the project areas they belong. I didn't want to use it initially because I hate changing systems but just for this alone I like it. There are all sorts of other benefits too which I imagine are much the same to other task managers but Dooster's the one that's landed in our laps. The customer service is good too.
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  • I’m Excited
    Hi all, I have just purchased a subscription to AIB after playing it a few months ago and now returning.

    I am finding that email generates far more "tasks" than anything else so Zendone Evernote note combo is taking a back seat.

    I notice this thread was last update about a year ago and Andy your last "full" response was 2 years ago. AIB seems to have come a long way (good job) and I was curious how many more people are successfully using AIB as total task management?

    I am about to embark on this as I see the benefit. I do use DoneDone to manage our software Dev so that is covered as it requires collaboration. (not really personal stuff at all)

    I am trying to get my head around A: The entire thing and B: Repetitive tasks?

    I am planning on using Boomerang for repeating things or just moving the dead line in a project called repetitive tasks? Also wanting to place Evernote links into the notes fields for referencing back to the note?

    Idea's / Feeds back / Guidance?
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  • I’m excited
    Hi Marcus, thought of sharing you my practice and possibly add 2 cents
    AIB - for mails.
    toodledo - for assorted and miscellaneous tasks.
    Google Task - for Projects-subproject-tasks
    MyChain(Android App) - for daily repetitive task like get up at 6, go for running. etc
    Excel sheet(using filters)- for all repetitive tasks, for example pay all bills on 10th of every month, measure saving & health at end of every quarter, Pay tax on every 2nd Saturday of December.

    All the above things sync nicely with my android phone

    For Repeat task, I haven't seen any robust tool (except possibly for http://chandlerproject.org/)
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    • Marcus,

      My little input - I used to have a fairly complex system but it had too many "cracks". When AIB come along, it seemed it could be helpful to me, and it was very much. So now, I really do almost everything with AIB, Google Calendar and Evernote. I use Evernote as my project info folder, but only when the AIB labeling and deadline system will not quite be enough. Other than that, all todos are in AIB. As you said, most todos for me come from email or sms. Using reply to self or compose to self, I can add, label and deadline anything. LInking to the calendar also gives me deadlines, but more importanly, gives me my recurring tasks (with an email reminder, of course) so they show up in email and in sms. I chose Andriod primarily because of how well it handled gmail labels (that is AIB) so my todo list is always with me. With Android share, I can quickly turn any sms into an email which then gets into the system. Android Google vocal now makes that even easier.

      So AIB pretty much does it all and I "feed" it from several places. And having the ability to look at certain labels on my smart phone makes all meetings and notetaking pretty painless. That's my input. Good luck with your choices.

      Bruce
    • Thanks Bruce, that is GREAT and so nice to hear that others are getting it right. I am very happy so far and AIB is really better than I had imagined. Your point " gives me my recurring tasks (with an email reminder, of course)" is a point I will use, I try put as little into my calender as possible but may this could work.

      Cheers
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  • 1
    This topic seems dead as people are asking too much......till people's wish is granted i want a very small enhancement.

    Ability to view my google tasks from active inbox, it may be clubbed under TODO, or a new tab whatever you feel is good approach. I create tasks on the go on my mobile and ability to see them in the inbox directly would really help me.

    Sorry if i sound too selfish :)
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    • Hi Andreas
      I've used Notes on the iphone in a similar way and these can also show up as one of the multiple inboxes, which is a great idea.
      Can I please ask you to explain something to me though...I'm new to AIB and my Today and Overdue labels are all in the format of ZD-... but your script seems to look for S/Today and S/Overdue labels (which it converts to C/ labels). I can't find these S/ status labels and can't seem to add them either so as they work. Have I got the wrong end of the stick on this??
    • Be warned, depending on your background this is not for the faint of heart. (Its not that bad, you have to like to experiment a little.) I have mentioned this in Google App Script for AIB: MarkAsToday already.

      First of all I have to direct you to read up on Gmail Snooze: http://gmailblog.blogspot.com/2011/07...

      From that I derived a script which can be found Google Docs Script: AIB Snooze: https://getsatisfaction.com/activeinb...

      You have to create a personal copy of the document first. The run the setup() function once to create the necessary labels.

      Then create a trigger that runs markToday() every day this:
      - Labels everything that is still filed at "C/Today" as "C/Overdue". (Those are yesterdays "today" items that are overdue today)
      - Labels everything thats labeled with either "C/Tomorrow" or with the "ZD"-label for today as "S/Next" and "C/Today"
      - Labels everything thats labeled with tomorrows "ZD"-label as "C/Tomorrow"

      I'm really not sure if this helps :)
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