Do you use email as your to-do list? If so, how much unread email is sitting in your inbox right now?
Let's face it: those emails don't always get read! And they're rapidly filling up your inbox, contributing to ongoing clutter.
Turning emails into tasks is only the first part of an organized email system. Copying and pasting email content into a to-do list is helpful, but it's not a scalable solution because it will eat your productivity as your to-do list grows.
Your inbox shouldn't be a glorified to-do list, but you can make it a task management system that works within your daily workflow and boosts your productivity!
In this post, we're not only going to show you how to turn an email into a task, but also how to turn your inbox into a system that speeds up email management! You'll learn how to keep a decluttered inbox with a simple and consistent way to manage your tasks and workload.
How to turn your emails into tasks
How do you turn your emails into tasks? We outline the most common ways below.
- Copy and paste: A bit archaic, but if you have an external project management system, copy and paste the contents of your email into a task on your to-do list or external system. This method requires considerable manual intervention, but it can be a quick solution for a few random to-do list items. However, it is not a scalable solution.
- Email forwarding: If you use project management software such as Trello or Asana, send your email to create a new task on those platforms. You might need to install plugins or forward your emails to a unique address which still requires a few steps, but it could be a good option if you are looking for a simple forwarding function. Here's how to send tasks to your Trello board and how to connect email with Asana.
- Email clients: Use the "Add to Tasks" function in Gmail. Email clients such as Microsoft Outlook also have similar features. You can add the subject line, body of the email and more and auto-fill a task description directly from the email's contents. Fill in the task details with mode information.
- Automate with Superhuman splits: Use Superhuman splits as your to-do list. Superhuman allows you to create and automate email categories. Automate the transfer of emails into related categories (aka to-do lists) without lifting a finger.
Turning emails into tasks is step 1. But what happens when your inbox grows, and copying and pasting becomes too tedious? Use an email-to-tasks system that creates a more tidy inbox and uses automation to organize your email messages behind the scenes.
Why do we need an email-to-tasks system?
For many of us, getting to Inbox Zero seems impossible. So instead, we do our best to keep track of emails and set up something that, on the surface, appears to be an email tasks system but leaves us with constant frustration.
Maybe we have a whiteboard or random notepads where we jot down action items and due dates. But notepads scattered all over our desk, office, or phone is not the best long-term solution. And I've got 100 Post-it® Notes to prove it!
Or maybe you set up a daily time slot to manage your email, but you quickly get distracted, and you can never seem to get on top of the mountain of messages.
You need a system. An efficient email-to-tasks system declutters your inbox, boosts productivity, and puts you back in control of your inbox. Let's discuss how to turn emails into tasks as part of an efficient, productivity-boosting system (no Post-its required)!
How to transform your inbox into a lean, mean task management machine
1. Prioritize your emails (and automate your inbox)
Even though mom might be anxiously awaiting your email reply, that doesn't mean the message is urgent. If you treat every email as urgent, you'll get buried pretty quickly. Conversely, if you treat every email as unimportant, you might miss out on critical opportunities.
What's the sweet spot? Here's a quick way to prioritize. When you review an email, ask yourself these questions.
If I don't address this email, will the outcome harm me or my business in any way? If yes, the email is urgent. Ex: multimillion-dollar deal falling through, or your website goes down during a critical promotion.
If neglecting the email will not cause harm, ask yourself if you can delegate the email to anyone else? If yes, delegate it.
If you can't delegate, ask yourself if you can reschedule the email. If yes, do it. If not, delete/archive the email or unsubscribe from the sender and archive/delete it.
Here's a visual of this question-and-answer walkthrough:
Some outlying scenarios might not fall within this workflow, but the goal is to get familiar with important vs. unimportant emails. For more detail on this subject, and how to prioritize emails and tasks, check out our post on the time management matrix.
Automate email prioritization
Want to automate prioritization to speed up your workflow? Create categories based on priority levels. For example:
- Important, not urgent
- Important, follow up
Let's say that certain emails from a specific sender are always urgent because they relate to a time-sensitive project you're working on.
Set up your inbox to automatically transfer those emails into your "Urgent" inbox so you can get to them immediately instead of fishing through your main inbox to find them.
Superhuman's splits are custom categories that are automated by AI. Simply set up how you want Superhuman to organize your emails and reduce your email management time. Superhuman works in the background while you focus on what really matters.
Once your inbox is set up to automate prioritization, use the email triage method.
2. Triage your emails in 4 easy steps
Email triage is a method of reviewing emails and actioning each one. With email triage, you will never leave an email untouched and allow it to clutter your inbox again.
In the last section, we walked through an email prioritization workflow that can help you assess an email's priority. Over time, this thought process will become second nature. Next, we'll show you a workflow for reviewing and triaging emails. Use it in tandem with the email prioritization workflow.
Step 1: Apply the 2-minute rule to action quick-reply emails
As you're reviewing emails, ask yourself if it will take two minutes or less to reply to that email. If yes, respond to it now!
Step 2: Remind yourself to action emails later
Will that email take longer than two minutes to action or reply to the sender? If yes, remind yourself to take action later.
Use Superhuman's Remind Me feature to set a timed reminder in each email you want to action later. Simply hit H on your keyboard to set the reminder.
With Superhuman, you can also schedule meetings within the interface if certain emails require further discussion or clarification.
Step 3: Delegate the email
If an email doesn't require your input and someone else on your team can action it, delegate it and forward the email to the appropriate person.
To automate the forwarding, set a filter to forward similar emails to the same recipient.
Step 4: Archive, delete, or action the email
If you can't reply to the email in fewer than two minutes and don't need to remind yourself or delegate it, consider archiving it to declutter your inbox.
Archived emails get removed from your inbox, but they are still available for retrieval via search. If you know you won't need the email in the future, delete it. But if you're unsure, archive it as you can always get to it later, but it won't be cluttering your inbox.
With Superhuman, you can archive emails by marking them as "Done". Just hit E on your keyboard.
If messages require further action in the immediate future, convert emails into an appointment or meeting or use calendar blocking to create tasks as to-do list items to action it in the future. This way, you can still remove it from your inbox (and your brain).
Read our article on how to manage your email inbox to learn more intricate details about email triage.
Fast, easy, and efficient email management starts and ends with Superhuman
Superhuman is an email experience built for speed, productivity, and joy. It helps you organize your emails and reach Inbox Zero faster than you ever thought possible. With Split Inbox, Snippets, Send Later, Instant Intro, and many other features, you can automate categorization, avoid distractions, and regain control of your inbox.
Sign up for Superhuman and turn your inbox into a fast and efficient task management system.