But the day when mere mortals master the task might be getting closer. ActiveInbox, a Gmail plugin five years in the making, launched a product this week that organizes emails into manageable projects and tasks.
CEO Andy Mitchell based the product on David Allen’s “Getting Things Done” (GTD) productivity philosophy, which aims to “transform personal overwhelm and overload into an integrated system of stress-free productivity.” Its first iterations were hence named GTDGmail and (after a letter from Google’s legal team) GTDEmail.
The first ActiveInbox product is a free plugin for Firefox and Chrome that adds a to-do list and project manager to the left sidebar of Gmail. Users can add items to the list using a task bar that appears at the top of each email. They can mark e-mails as “action,” “waiting on,” or “some day” and add them to a project, similar to the way that Gmail labels work. The plugin also adds new shortcuts, like the ability to look up previous email conversations by simply right-clicking a contact and a button that simultaneously archives a conversation and sends a reply.
“It’s actually a completely different way at looking at email,” Mitchell says. “What we’re doing is emails as tasks between you and your colleagues.”
Until 2009, he had been running the inbox as a side project while working with another startup. After more than 700 people donated $20,000 to the project, he decided to start working on the project full time.
Through various beta versions of the product, the startup already has collected about 15,000 users, 1,500 of them paying customers.