My Favorite Gmail Extension : How to Get Things Done Faster with ActiveInbox

Image Credit : AGBeat

Back in 2006 I wrote about how I got my Outlook Inbox to ZERO emails, and how it changed my life. Today I don’t use Microsoft Outlook but I have successfully fully adapted the “Getting-Things-Done” (GTD) principles to Gmail, and if you’re interested in dealing with email overload in Gmail, read on :)

The solution is ActiveInbox, and I’ll get to what this Gmail plug-in has allowed me to do:

  • I have ZERO emails in my inbox even though I receive upwards of 200 emails a day on average – which means everything is sorted out in a coherent manner.
  • I choose to only see the emails I’m supposed to act on today (This is only true with the paid version)- which means I weed out everything that need to be done later and focus on important tasks due right away.  Nothing gets missed or accidently forgotten – ever.
  • I never lose track of emails where I am awaiting a reply – which means less stress when trying to follow up.

So here’s how a normal workflow runs for me once you install the ‘Active Inbox plug-in’:

  1. Check email only once per hour or so, nothing more.  Processing your emails in bulk is much less distracting.
  2. Open the unread email. 
  3. Archive everything that does not need a reply or action after you read it.
  4. If it’s a 2 minute reply, just hit reply and archive the email. 
  5. Click the ‘Waiting On’ button if you’re expecting a reply (Set the deadline date if you’re on a paid version so you can follow up easily).
  6. If it’s something that can wait till later, click the ‘Action’ button to ensure you act on it before you archive (Again, set a deadline date if you’re on the paid version – this will allow you to later filter out only the tasks due today, tomorrow etc.).
  7. Once your inbox is empty, just do/follow up everything which is due today, or re-assign it to a later date. 
  8. Say goodbye to email overload.

Easy right? 

Here’s a 4 minute video which should give you a lowdown on the look and feel of the whole thing.

Video Bonus:

If you’ve got an hour to spare, this is Merlin Mann talking to Googlers in Mountainview back in 2007 about the concept of ‘Inbox Zero’

This is undoubtedly my favorite Gmail extension of ALL time.  It works for both Gmail in Chrome and Firefox (Sorry Internet Explorer users).  The free version is pretty good, but if you use Gmail a lot- especially for work, upgrading to the plus version is a must have.  At $24.95 a year, it is worth every penny, and remains one the very few web services which I have actually paid for. 

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