I finally received my invitation to Mailbox today, and so far, my experience has been positive. After quickly clearing my inbox in the mobile app, I logged into Gmail to see if I could determine what Mailbox was doing behind the scenes.
It turns out that Mailbox applies catch-all labels to messages, and then manages the specifics outside of Gmail. For example, whether scheduling a message to be addressed later in the evening, or later in the week, Mailbox simply assigns a ‘[Mailbox]-Later’ tag. While this is just fine when using the mobile app, it leads to problems when trying to tackle tasks through the traditional web interface.
The problem I have with Mailbox, and with most to-do apps, is that it’s hard to work them into all of my workflows. I really like using multiple stars in Gmail, but those stars are only available in the Gmail web app. At work, I have to use Outlook, but Outlook’s to-do system in entirely detached from my Gmail system. When I’m in the car and I think of something I have to do, I frequently use Siri to add a task on my phone. Suddenly, managing tasks that are located in multiple different locations becomes more work than it’s worth.
I’m going to continue using Mailbox because of the handy reminders that can be set to deal with emails in the future. The idea of getting an email, and being able to tell my phone to remind me to tackle it later really appeals to me, mainly because I’ve never been one to remember to look at my to-do list. I’m the type of person that keeps my to-do list on my screen at work all day, every day.
I also found a way to work Mailbox into my existing Gmail system of using multiple stars along with multiple inboxes. My GTD system is very simple. I use four categories: Actionable, Waiting/Delegated, Information, and Completed to categorize all of my email that can not be immediately dealt with. My Actionable inbox uses a simple search to display only emails with a yellow star.
I expanded that search to include emails with the ‘[Mailbox]-Later’ label, so that when I’m looking at my actionable items in Gmail, I can see emails that I’ve marked for follow-up from within the Mailbox app.
has:yellow-star || label:[mailbox]-Later
It’s not fancy, and it’s certainly not verbose enough for many GTD implementations, but I’m hoping it’s just enough to let me quickly mark personal emails for follow-up, while still letting me use the Gmail web interface to see all of my emails that need to be tackled.