Your Inbox Is Not a To-do List

todolistI’ve been talking and thinking about time management a lot lately (the fabulous Brenda Hough and I are doing a prefconference workshop about it at Internet Librarian) so when I saw this from Zen Habits I knew I had to share it

Why Your Email Inbox Is NOT a Good To-do List: a very brief summary

  1. You can’t change the subject lines
  2. There might be multiple actions in each email
  3. You can’t re-order the emails (usually)
  4. You can’t prioritize your to-dos
  5. An email inbox contains distractions

Go read the whole thing for explanations and suggestions on tools to use for a to-do lists.

6 thoughts on “Your Inbox Is Not a To-do List

  1. I’ve been preaching Inbox Zero to friends, family, and colleagues so much recently that I had to knock it off. It’s remarkable how much more productive and sane I am when my inbox is regularly empty.


  2. Depends on your email system. With Gmail’s labels and Multiple Inboxes, I do prioritize and reorder my emails, and assign several tasks. I can also link emails to tasks in my Google Tasks list. Since I spend so much time looking at my inbox anyway, I find it efficient to use it as my to-do list also.


    1. well if you’re linking them to Google tasks, you’re not really using your inbox as the to-do list 😉

      It sounds like you have a good system, unfortunatley I think a lot of people are still struggling with Outlook.


  3. I have been using my inbox as a to-do list, and in fact have just lately been telling people I do – so, appropriate timing on this post (to make me feel guilty, that is). It does require a lot of mental prioritizing, and inefficent clicking into messages only to think, “oh yeah, that’s why I’m keeping it here” (I would love to be able to edit subjects).

    But in my never-ending quest for inbox zero, having action messages in there is great incentive to complete them. Of course, I have yet to reach zero – when I do, I am going to throw myself a party.

    Also, this method prevents me from letting projects get buried on my desk – if they’re in my inbox, they’re always in front of me. Nagging.


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