5 Reasons Email Sucks As Your To-Do List And What To Do Instead

Executing on Plans / June 11, 2019 / Kristie

Email is one of the top communication methods – especially for business. But here’s the thing, it’s a communication tool, not a task management tool.

Yet, there are still people worldwide that continue to use their inbox as their to-do list. If you start your day by checking your email and work off of it as your to-do list, I’m here to tell you to STOP!

Here are 5 reasons email sucks at being your to-do list and what you should do instead.

don't use email as your to do list

Email hijacks your day

If you’re using your inbox as your to-do list, you’re reacting to what comes into your inbox. This causes you to be a slave to your inbox and you’re likely wasting a lot of time going through email when you could be spending your time on more important and impactful things.

What to do instead: Instead of starting your day by checking your email, start your day by asking yourself what the most impactful and important thing is for you to do today. Start by doing that first, then check your email. This will allow you to be more proactive about where you’re prioritizing your time so you can do the things that will have an impact on pushing your business forward instead of just reacting to what’s in your inbox and letting email run your day.

Email is reactive

The same goes for if you’re using email to remind you to follow up with a lead. Sure, you have the email in your inbox so when you get to it you’ll be reminded to follow up with them. But what about the cases where you told them you’d follow up with them by phone? Or if you reply to their email to follow up, but they miss it or forget? Then you’re relying on them to make the next move which is being reactive. To be proactive, you should be driving that deal forward and not relying on that email to remind you.

What you should do instead: Use a system to keep track of your deals and projects so you have a list to work from to keep nudging each one forward. At a minimum, you can do this in a list or spreadsheet. The ideal thing to do is to use a project management or CRM like Daylite, for example, where you can keep track of each deal and project to keep nudging each one forward, even if you don’t hear back when sending an email. This way you’re being proactive.

Daylite Tip: To make sure you’re being proactive to move each deal forward, check out how to streamline your sales process with Daylite. To make sure you’re being proactive about moving each project forward, check out how to streamline your projects with Daylite.

Email doesn’t remind you

If you’re working out of your inbox and you get a lot of emails, then you’re inevitably going to let things slip through the cracks. With email, there’s nothing jumping out to remind you when something is due. So if you’re starting from the top of your inbox and working through it, you may be missing an important to-do that’s buried somewhere in the bottom of your inbox that you previously saw and thought “no worries, I have time so I’ll get to that later.”

What you should do instead: Use a system to keep track of the action items that come through your inbox. When you get an email that requires you to do something at a later date, put that in a system to remind you. Whether it’s in your calendar so you get a reminder, or your assistant’s to-do list so they can remind you of it. Or you can use a task management tool like Daylite, for example, to set a task and reminder.

Daylite Tip: Using Daylite’s Apple Mail Integration, you can create a task and set a reminder right from the email.

Email isn’t organized

Email isn’t organized, it’s just a long list of communication ordered by most recent. If you’re using it as your to-do list, this gets messy real fast. Even if you’re using email folders, working out of your inbox is not an organized way to work. Once you file something, you have to remember to go back and look through those folders. You can flag things but there’s no way of organizing and sorting the things you have to do, plus they require you to dig through the email to pull out the “what needs to be done”.

What to use instead: Use a task list. At a minimum, keep a to-do list on a piece of paper. The ideal situation is to use a tool that you can manage your tasks in like Daylite, for example, where you can link the emails to the task so you can reference them, but don’t have to go digging.

Email isn’t prioritized

Chances are the order of emails in your inbox does not align with the order of the things you have to do by priority. If you’re using your inbox as your to-do list, you’re not able to prioritize effectively. Instead, you’re skimming through your inbox to find important things to do and jumping all over the place, or working from newest to oldest which doesn’t help you prioritize.

What to do instead: Process your emails into a system so you can prioritize what needs to be done. To do this, follow the rules for Inbox Zero.

What is Inbox Zero?

Inbox Zero is a methodology to process your emails efficiently so you can get out of your inbox and focus your time on the important things. Inbox zero is about following a process and using a system to organize the actionable items from your inbox. To learn how to do this, check out our blog How To Achieve Inbox Zero.

About the author:
Kristie Holden is an online marketing consultant. She helps startups get more leads by clarifying their message and creating a marketing strategy to attract and convert their ideal client. Connect with her on Instagram.

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