Seize Control of your Inbox

Seize Control of Your Inbox

Can’t keep up with your email messages? Seize control of your inbox via a Kanban-like Message Triage system along with ‘Trackers’. Even achieve the mythical Inbox Zero.

One of the biggest problems with email is keeping up with the onslaught of messages. One of the reasons for this onslaught is spam. The issue of spam is dealt with by TMail and is described here. However, a large fraction of messages are legitimate or quasi-legitimate. EMail lacks the tools to deal with these effectively.


What is missing in email is having a systematic way of conducting triage and prioritizing messages. Fortunately, such a system exists and is called Kanban. Kanban is a methodology that was popularized by Toyota in their factories, but has now spread to many other areas as a way to prioritize an inflow of work.


TMail has a Kanban system built into the heart of its message-processing flow. Kanban systems are made up of multiple stages. In TMail, the stages are
  1. Inbox – Messages first come here
  2. Backlog – Messages I plan to work on sometime in the future
  3. On Deck – Messages I am working on right now or will be working on very shortly
  4. Waiting – Messages that are waiting on someone else or some other action.
  5. Archive – Messages that have been effectively dealt with
There are two processing loops that a user would engage in
1) Inbox processing Loop (Periodic or Continuous)
Process each message and either deal with it immediately or move it to an appropriate other stage (Backlog, On Deck, Waiting or Archive).
2) Backlog/On Deck/Waiting Stage Processing Loop (Periodic)
Periodically check On Deck and either work on it or re-stage it if appropriate. Periodically check Waiting and see if the wait condition has been satisfied (eg. a response has been received). Periodically check Backlog and see whether a message should be promoted to On Deck.


In this way, the Inbox is quickly and often brought to empty (Inbox Zero!) and other messages are processed based on their stage. It let’s the user narrow their focus to their On Deck messages thus increasing productivity. The Waiting stage ensures that nothing slips through the cracks.


Another key element in the whole message processing flow is the concept of the Tracker Message. While a message corresponds to a single comment in a TMail, the Tracker Message corresponds to a TMail as a whole. Tracker Messages allow entire TMails (with possibly dozens of comments) to be processed as a unit through the Kanban pipeline. In the majority of cases it turns out that it is more efficient to deal with the TMail as a whole rather than individual messages.


Consider the case of a Contract TMail. It may have 50 comments/updates in it at some point in time and hence 50 messages for each user. However, once the user has processed a particular message it might make more sense to track the Contract as a whole rather each individual message associated with the Contract.


This processing at the TMail level (vs. Message level) can be a vastly more efficient way of dealing with Inbox inflow. Note that the user can work at the individual message level just like email if they so wish.


There are two key TMail-level actions that deal with Trackers. These are
Archive All (messages) and Add Tracker


Archive All (messages) but Keep Tracker


The former is used when a Tracker has not been created yet. The latter is used when a Tracker already exists. In both cases, the user can select which Kanban stage the Tracker goes into.


In summary, between having a Kanban flow baked right into TMail along with the ability to deal with messages as a group via Trackers, you will be well on your way to seizing control of your Inbox!