Getting to Inbox Zero with Todoist

Having a cluttered email inbox just doesn’t work for me. Having both new items, emails masking as tasks, and random messages in my inbox is stressful. If you share this need for a clutter-free inbox, you may find my solution helpful.

My email processing is an ever evolving process. Being a product manager ensures I get well over a thousand messages on any given week. Many of the messages contain important follow-up material necessary to complete my work.

A common practice that I have done in the past is flag the message for follow-up. Every email client has some concept of flagging a message. This practice is not terrible, but it does have two downsides, 1) you have to remember why you flagged the message, flagging the message does not enable you to provide a note, and 2) if you are not great a cleaning up the flagged messages it can cause a situation where you have an overflow of flagged messages, making it difficult to understand what you need to get done.

I have been using various tools to help keep control of the items I need to follow up on. Todoist has been my latest go-to task tracking system. It works on all the platforms I use and has a great REST API that enables integration between tools.

Lately, I have been back to using Mac OS X Mail as my email client. I was loving Airmail, but a recent beta bug caused me an email nightmare, so back to Mac Mail. One feature I missed from Airmail was the ability to create a Todoist task from a mail message. Mac OS X Mail does have the concept of a link to the message, it is just a bit more hidden. So some scripting was required.

The Solution

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My solution to keep a handle on my inbox and keep track of the tasks I need to do is to integrate Mail with Todoist. The high-level flow goes like this:

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  • Review the mail message that requires following up.
  • Keyword to start the workflow
  • Create a new Todoist task with an action required for me to take next
  • Pull the link to the Mail message, and embed the link as a note within the task

This method does require Alfred, a very powerful launcher for Mac OS X. Not only is Alfred a powerful launcher, it also allows you to write workflows that can kick off based on specific keywords or keystrokes.

As a message comes in during the day, if I can’t respond to it in a few minutes, I will flag it for follow up. This is just a reminder for me look more closely at the message and decide what the next step I want to take on the topic would be.

Then when I want to clean up all the messages I didn’t get to during the day, I just filter on my all the flagged messages, and create new tasks in Todoist, then remove the flag. The benefit to this workflow is when I get to the task, I can open the mail message, get more details on the context and take action. No longer to I need to keep the message in my inbox.

You can download the Alfred workflow here

Or take a look at the code on Github: mgroves84/MailSendToTodoist