Email is a to-do list made by other people - can someone make it more efficient?!

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This is a follow-up to one of our most popular posts: getting email responses from busy people. This post had been in the drafts for a few weeks, then this morning I saw this quote in our Twitter feed:

Your email inbox is a to-do list created by other people (via)

This is 100% true of my work email and I have to say, because of the way those emails are organized - as conversations rather than a prioritized, organized to-do list - I end up missing really important things or getting to them too late. This is happening to me with increasing enough frequency I feel like I'm starting to cause serious problems for people.

So I am begging someone with way better skills than me to produce software that replaces gmail in the following ways. It is a to-do list that I can allow people to add tasks too. The software shows me the following types of messages.

  1. We have an appointment at x time on y date to discuss z. Next to this message is a checkbox. If I click “ok” it gets added to my calendar, if I click “no” then a message gets sent to the person who scheduled the meeting saying I’m unavailable.
  2. A multiple choice question where they input the categories of answer I can give and I just pick one, it sends them the response.
  3. A request to be added as a person who can assign me tasks with a yes/no answer.
  4. A longer request email - this has three entry fields: (1) what do you want, (2) when do you want it by? and (3) a yes/no checkbox asking if I’m willing to perform the task.  If I say yes, it gets added to my calendar with automated reminders.
  5. It should interface with all the systems that send me reminder emails to organize the reminders.
  6. You can assign quotas to people, where they can only submit a certain number of tasks per month.
  7. It allows you to re-assign tasks to other people so when I am not the right person to ask, I can quickly move the task on to the right person.
  8. It would collect data and generate automated reports for me about what kind of tasks I'm usually forgetting/being late on and what times of day I'm bad about responding so that I could improve my response times.

The software would automatically reorganize events/to-dos to reflect changing deadlines/priorities, etc. This piece of software would revolutionize my life. Any takers?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jiawei-Bai/100000182406903 Jiawei Bai

    It reminds me of a post that I saw yesterday: "No one is 'too busy' in this world. It's all about priorities."

  • Andrea Chalk

    Actually, you already have a To Do list in Gmail. If you select the email in question in your Inbox and click the More button at the top, it gives you the option to Add to Tasks.

  • http://twitter.com/ArturoSaCo Arturo SánchezCorrea

    I think orchestra task manager has a "social" aspect in which you can send tasks to people. http://www.orchestra.com/

  • http://profiles.google.com/yuridenommus Yuri Albuquerque

    The system already exists. It's called redmine: http://www.redmine.org

  • http://twitter.com/danbolser Dan Bolser

    Google made priority email at my suggestion. Perhaps you should just suggest this to them?

  • Stephen

    Sounds like most ticketing systems used for IT support, really?

  • http://twitter.com/StuartBuck1 Stuart Buck

    What about Team Gantt? http://teamgantt.com/tour/

  • http://timavo.wordpress.com/ Z.

    Very interesting idea, but you forgot the most crucial aspect: how to convince other people to use it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mdshw5 Matt Shirley

    Some of this is present in https://www.telety.pe/. I was using it back when it was called "TheDeadline", and it's basically a "task messenger". Really, it's eerie how well this would fit your needs.

  • http://twitter.com/hspter Hilary Parker

    Academic paper that uses crowd-sourcing to accomplish just what you asked: http://stanford.io/RC5ikt

    • jtleek

      When they have software, I'll believe it :-)