Email management is the same as managing as task management. I became convinced by this when I first saw the Kickstarter vision from Mailpilot.
This basically described what I was doing, so when MailPilot launched into Public Beta, I paid $60 to subscribe for a year.
It is in Beta so doesn’t quite look like the vision in the video. But it has the elements they said. Each email requires an action. Most of them will be to complete the email in which case it is archived. But there are more nuanced actions to put it into a to-do list, look out for a follow up and make either of these two things time sensitive. However, there is a problem. This is an independent service and so it syncs awkwardly with Gmail using folders and labels. It also cannot be used on mobile devices. Well, at least not yet. But that means I can’t really use it either.
Now Gmail does have some syncing with tasks but that is a separate app. There are two alternatives that showed some promise. One is Any.do. Any.do is an iPhone etc and Chrome app that is a task manager. It is slick. But the Chrome app allows integrates with Gmail. That means that for any email you can instantly add a task associated with that email to Any.do. That replicates some of the functionality with MailPilot but not things like the ‘watch for a reply’ feature. But the main issue again is that it is platform specific. You need Chrome and desktop Chrome only. Yes the todo lists sync with the iPhone app but you can’t manage email there so it is a problem.
Another option is Orchestra. This is a task manager but it has a Tripit like option with it that allows you to send emails to the task manager and so the emails become tasks. If you can remember all of the features this works as intended but it is hard to remember those. What is more is that unlike MailPilot’s vision you are just transferring email management to task management but you still have to deal with the emails later in some way. It isn’t integrated. So there was promise here. Sadly, the folks behind Orchestra have decided to focus their efforts elsewhere and have abandoned further app development.
What is interesting is where they have gone. Apparently, they have gone on to focus wholly on email management with the MailBox app. This looks very promising but it looks like it will focus on mobile email management and not have a desktop/web option right away.
The problem I have is that I need to manage these things. Thusfar all of the solutions involve learning new routines. MailBox has promise in that may be very simple but in order to really work, this is one of those things that has to be multi-platform and not device specific. If anyone has seen any other suggestions I’d be interested to know. For the moment, I may up my use of Any.do as that is closest to how I currently work.