Your inbox is a to-do list.

Every item in your inbox represents some kind of action that you have to take or a decision that you have to make. That’s why we’ve redesigned the inbox to better reflect how people already use email — as an all-in-one to-do list.

Twobird Blog
5 min readOct 7, 2021

Over 4 billion people (roughly half the world’s population) use email, and every day email users send over 300 billion messages—so it’s no surprise that most of us end up spending a lot of time in our email inboxes. And because so much of our work and personal communication is mediated through email messages, our email inboxes also become our mission control centers.

Email was originally designed as a communication tool — as the name “electronic mail” suggests — but in practice, we also use email to prioritize, delegate, and take action. Though traditional inbox clients work well for sending messages, they don’t always provide the best possible experience when you want to get a high-level overview of your most important tasks: all emails are treated with the same level of importance by default; emails are organized chronologically rather than by importance; the experience of creating a quick reminder or note is more cumbersome than it needs to be.

That’s why we at Twobird have made it our mission to create a better inbox experience: your inbox is a to-do list, and it should be designed like one.

Today, we’re introducing a suite of changes that make it easier to identify important tasks, create new tasks, and hide everything else that might distract you from focusing on what’s important.

Unread emails = to-dos

One of the most common ways that people use their inbox as a to-do list is by marking important emails as unread. People do this for a number of reasons: it’s fast and relatively frictionless to mark something as unread with a single click, and it visually distinguishes emails that require further action from those that do not. Additionally, the ease with which you can mark something as unread helps mitigate the stress of analysis paralysis; if you’re not sure how to deal with an email at a given time, you can mark it as unread, and then come back to it later. “Unread” doesn’t actually mean that an email hasn’t been read — what it means is, “I need to make a decision about what to do with this email at some point in the future.” In other words: an unread email is a to-do!

With this perspective in mind, we’ve restructured the inbox: now, the top of the inbox contains the To-do section. This section contains your unread email threads, notes, and triggered reminders.

When you read an email, it automatically gets marked as Done, and moves out of the To-do section. You can also mark items as Done from within the inbox by hovering over a note or reminder and clicking the “Done” button.

Below all of your To-do items is the Done section, which contains your read emails. If you want to revisit an important thread later, you can set a Reminder, which will cause that thread to appear in your To-do section at a specific date and time, or just mark it as To-do, which will immediately move it to your To-do section.

In general, you shouldn’t need to look at your Done items very much — because they’re done! So if you’d like, you can hide all your Done items for a cleaner inbox experience.

Creating new to-dos is a breeze

When you have an idea that you want to jot down as quickly as possible, any friction can feel like an imposition—so, many of us might opt for whatever we perceive as the path of least resistance, whether that’s the built-in notes app on your phone or a physical post-it. But those notes are siloed away from the work that you’re doing and the apps you’re using, so it becomes easy to forget about them, and difficult to revisit and take action on those notes later.

In contrast, your email inbox, which is already integrated with all the work you’re doing every single day, is a great place to take and store notes. When you treat your notes like email messages, you can get all the benefits that come with that: improved searchability, built-in reminders, and the ability to see your notes in context alongside all your other tasks.

To get the benefits out of using your inbox for taking notes, the experience of taking notes needs to be as frictionless as possible. That’s why we’ve created the new To-do field at the top of the To-do section. This is a simple, intuitive way to add new tasks to your inbox quickly. Simply type the task you want to create in the field, then press Enter — this will create a new note in your To-do section. You can also set a reminder if you want to handle the task a little further in the future.

To-do or not to-do? With this update, it doesn’t have to be a question.

Because most people use email as one of their main communication channels, your inbox already contains most of your life’s to-dos — which not-so-coincidentally, makes it the perfect to-do list!

We wanted to create an inbox that reflects this, and builds upon the task management workflows that people already use when they use email. We’re excited to share this next big step forward with you.

If you’re looking for a less distracting and more rewarding inbox experience, sign up for Twobird for free — and if you liked this piece, follow us on Twitter @Twobirdapp to hear our latest updates!



Twobird Blog

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