I recently realised that I have several other ‘inboxes’ in my life in addition to the classic personal task manager (OmniFocus for me) and e-mail—an inbox defined broadly as any capture point for new actions or information that may be worth one’s attention.
For example (from obvious to debatable):
- Work task manager and e-mail (Microsoft To Do and Outlook, respectively)
- A paper notepad that is my tasks inbox when it’s not appropriate to use my iPhone for OF
- Calendar invitations
- Other messaging apps (iMessage, WhatsApp)
- My hospital pager
- ~/Downloads (or any other folder that is a receptacle for unsorted files)
- News/media sources (RSS, YouTube, podcasts, read-it-later service)
- Discussion boards (MPU Talk, Reddit)
EDIT: Additions suggested by others / more ideas:
- Browser tabs and bookmarks I’ll get to later
- Notifications on devices
- Letters, paper documents
How do you remember to reply to messages? I often forget if I’ve seen them and they’re marked as read, but I don’t reply straight away. Maybe that’s just me. But if I’m in the middle of something, I don’t want to reply hurriedly and distractedly. So I manually create OF tasks to reply later. This is tedious, but I’d rather consolidate messages into OF, which also offers powerful sorting, than have to constantly review each messaging app separately—just more inboxes. Moreover, as far as I can tell, there is no way to re-mark an iMessage as unread.
More generally, what is your approach to consolidating inboxes? How many distinct inboxes are you comfortable to maintain? Too many and I find myself cycling through them, worrying about having forgotten one of them. (Obviously not a big deal for new YouTube videos, but more problematic if I’ve forgotten to call back someone who paged me, for example.) At the risk of sounding completely mad, this feels like a kind of meta-inbox situation.
Even if there’s nothing I can do about it—there’s no way for me to make pages appear automatically in Microsoft To Do—I feel that cataloging my inboxes was a helpful exercise.