5 Simple Ways to Keep Tasks out of Your Inbox

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5 Simple Ways to Keep Tasks out of Your Inbox

(This post contains affiliate hyperlinks. Please read my full disclosure.

Do you find yourself using your email inbox to create a To Do List? You get a message that needs to be actioned, but you have to respond to a query or attend a meeting right now. The email sits there until it is cleared out and you realize that you should have done more with it.
How do you manage all these tasks? This article will share some of my methods for keeping action items out of my email inbox.

1. Use a spreadsheet
2. Use Chrome/Gmail extensions to manage your email organization
3. Use a notebook
4. Use Sendtask for email management
5. Use email…smartly
Make email work part of your To Do List

I asked my colleagues how they manage tasks, without using their inbox. They replied: “Put them into Microsoft Project.”
The problem is that I don’t want to use a full-featured project management tool for all the little things. It’s too complicated to add a task to my Gantt chart with the title “Proofread document from Legal Team”. Some tasks that I want to track might not be directly related.
A full-service project management solution may be more expensive depending on what you are tracking.
These are five free ways to stay on top of email management.
1. Use a spreadsheet
It’s old school. There are many task management and fancy apps that can sync to all of your devices. Task tracking on a spreadsheet is a great option.
A spreadsheet should be set up with columns for the task number and date, description, owner, owner, updates, and status (open, closed or on hold), etc. You can streamline your inbox emails by copying tasks from emails and pasting them into the spreadsheet. Then, delete the message from your email software.
Tip: Make sure to include the action items from the meeting minutes and any other notes, so that all your To Dos are in one place.
This will give you a simple spreadsheet which acts as your task manager or To Do List. Filter by date, status, priority, or any other criteria you choose.
Although I love my spreadsheet (and I can give you a free copy my action log template), it is limited. Sendtask and other apps offer greater organization and structure for your task lists. Excel will never remind you when a task is due, nor will it integrate with Slack.
It’s easier to integrate apps with other tools that you use. Here’s how Sendtask integrates to Slack. I don’t allow anyone else to update my spreadsheet. Sometimes I will email the file to my team and ask them to email it back with the changes they have made. However, I will make the updates manually in the master file.
This is a huge duplication of effort, especially when there are many tasks. It would be much better if other people could update their task progress directly without affecting the integrity or history.
Apps do this better than task tracking in spreadsheets, but I still use Excel files for simple projects. It’s better than an overflowing email inbox.
2. Use Chrome/Gmail extensions to manage your email organization
There are extensions and plugins for Chrome and Gmail available that will upgrade your webmail to email software. These plugins and extensions can be used to create a list, convert an email into To Do items in a Google Doc, and other things.
There are extensions that can help you move items from your inbox to task folders.
This idea works only if your company uses Gmail as its backend email system. Many people don’t use Gmail. I use Microsoft Outlook and Lotus Notes before that. Both I prefer Gmail to them both.
Take a look at the browser extensions available for Gmail. There are many. I don’t use Gmail as my em