That’s NOT What Email Is for: Your To-do List Is Dying in Your Inbox

That’s NOT What Email Is for: Your To-do List Is Dying in Your Inbox

As a busy entrepreneur, it’s no wonder that you have a long to-do list. But that list should not be kept in your inbox. After all, that’s not what email is for.

It’s understandable how we got here. After all, email is the default way to conduct business communications online. But that’s no excuse for continuing to abuse this little bit of technology. You need to look at this potential issue through the second simple machine of business: smart business.

Smart business is all about creating repeatable systems and employing them in a way that works best for you to magnify your efforts. 

Listen in to Season 1: Episode 6

The Joy of a To-do List

There’s nothing better than creating a to-do list and then checking off every. single. thing on that list. Am I right But if you’re keeping that list in your inbox, I suspect that’s a feeling you’re not getting very often. 

Here are a couple of quotes that ring true:

Chris Brogan: “The inbox is the perfect delivery system of other people’s priorities.”

Donald Rumsfeld: “If you are working from your inbox, you are working on other people’s priorities.”

Here’s what I know: A separate to-do list or project manager is the ONLY way to stay in charge of your priorities.

Your Inbox Is NOT Your To-do List

Your inbox is a place where you receive messages from other people. It might also be a place with requests that can feel time-sensitive.

On the flipside, your to-do list is a place where you organize your work based on your priorities. And usually, we are trying to accomplish important things that may not necessarily be urgent.

If you are using your inbox as a to-do list, here’s how to stop doing that:

Step 1: Put your to-do list anywhere but your inbox. 

Write it on a piece of paper, put it in a project management software like Asana or Trello, write it on a whiteboard, a post-it note, your phone app, a stone tablet… I do not care. Just keep it OUT of your inbox. 

Step 2: Close your inbox.

I know; this sounds simple, but we can also all acknowledge that it certainly isn’t easy. 

Here at FieryFX, all of our project information and tasks go into our project manager. No questions asked. We don’t email each other; clients don’t email us. They don’t go in Slack; they don’t go in text messages; they only go into the project manager. And getting here takes some stick-to-it-ness, reiteration, and perseverance, but let me tell you what it’s like on the other side: you can stay on task. 

Start Checking Things Off Your List

That’s right: When you get organized, you can actually check off all the things on your list. And there’s no mid-task reprioritization when you hear that ding and there’s suddenly an “urgent” email that interrupts your whole day. (How to get out of the cycle entirely is a story for another day.)

When you stay in charge of your priorities and tasks, you can then experience that beautiful feeling of checking everything off your task list. And you’ll start making steady progress toward those big goals.

Take 10 minutes today and evaluate how you and your team are handling daily tasks and see if there’s an improvement that could be made.

What Works for You?

I’ve heard from some people that they actually are doing just fine with using their inbox as a to-do list. If that’s true for you, then great! I’m always an advocate of doing what works for you. If you *think* this is working for you, make sure to evaluate the availability of information beyond your inbox. This is another reason to use a system like a project manager: I’m trying to be as irrelevant to the daily operations of my business as possible, and if critical information is in my inbox, that can’t happen.

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