Simplifying Idea: Use Your Email Inbox as a To-Do List

corner desk in home office makeover

Recently I was getting a long overdue allergy shot, and I commented to the nurse that it was somehow harder to get there once a month than it had been when I was coming in once a week. She told me that she hears that all the time, and asked if I had signed up for text or email reminders.

No, I hadn’t. I didn’t even know they offered them.

I enthusiastically signed up for the email option because I knew it would help. Not because I forget that it’s time for my allergy shot, but because I use my email inbox as a to-do list, and I knew that having that email reminder sitting there would help me get myself in for the shot. (I’m a procrastinator.)

Maybe using your email inbox this way is obvious. Do you guys do it already? Here are some examples of what I mean:

  • When I order something online, I leave the confirmation email in my inbox until the item arrives.
  • When I schedule something via email, I put it on my calendar, but I leave the email there as an additional reminder until the call, meeting, etc. takes place.
  • When someone emails me about taking care of something (usually blog, bookkeeping, or committee/board work related) I leave the email there until I do it.
  • When I get the email reminder to pay our credit card bill, I leave it there until I pay it.
  • When I get an email notice from the library that a book I requested is in, I Ieave the email there until I pick it up.

Over the weekend I picked up the (regular) mail and noticed we’d gotten a prescription refill from our mail order pharmacy. My first thought was: great, I can delete that email now. 

I love being able to delete something from my inbox/to-do list. It’s a particular thrill when I can whittle the number of email messages down to the point where I can see them all on my desktop screen without having to scroll. I probably just revealed my own particular brand of crazy right there, but I’m hoping some of you can relate.

By the way, this strategy works for me because I make good use of email folders. If there’s an email that I need to keep for an extended period of time, but don’t need to monitor or take any further action on (travel arrangements are a good example), I have a folder for that. That leaves my inbox free for these to-do items.

How do you manage your email? Does it double as a to-do list? Any other simplifying tips to share?

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  1. Julie, I started using my email inbox years ago for to-do support. Not sure how I’d manage without it! I agree it seems obvious, but I’ve had several people say, “Oh…now that’s a good idea.” I’m sure your post will be much appreciated! ~Jillian

    1. Thanks for your nice, comment, Jillian. Like you, I really rely on this strategy. I wasn’t even aware of how much until I wrote this post.

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