Productivity Hack: Use Drafts in Your Email as Todo’s


I’m a firm believer of keeping clutter to a minimum, so much so that I don’t use todo list apps any more. I kicked the habit because a) maintaining them cost me the time I saved using an app in the first place, b) you needed to learn yet another system and c) they didn’t play well when I switch devices (computer to mobile).

Since most of my communications involves me using email, I switched to a todo list that was with me all the time: my drafts. If there’s something new that comes in and I want to take care of it later, I create a dummy email in the thread (this is where Gmail’s threaded email comes in handy) and then move it to Drafts.

Some ways I use this:

  1. New notifications from work apps (Basecamp, etc) that need my action? Create a draft.
  2. Client instructions? Create a draft.
  3. New client inquiry? Create a draft.
  4. Important chores and errands? Place the todo in the subject and create a draft.
  5. Need to write a blog post? Create a… you get the point.

The beauty of it is that it frees up your inbox for the new stuff and if the email needs a response, you just need to type it in. Or you can trash the draft once you’re done.

Of course for this to work well, you should keep as few Drafts as possible. Five (5) at most should do the trick and you need to offload some of the emails to your other apps.

  • Meetings go to your calendar. Also, use your calendar for todo’s that you can’t do in the next day or so to offload some of the stress and thinking to your future self (your future self might not like that though).
  • Items with lots of info but no action needed (slide decks, PDFs, etc) can go to your favorite note taking app like Evernote.
  • Use filters (for Gmail users) to dump all nonessential emails to their own well-labeled folders for later review.

This works on mobile, desktop and even on another person’s computer. If most of your work is online, and I’m sure it is if you’re reading this, then you have your inbox open most of the time anyway. And Drafts sync across all devices and works even if you’re offline since it will update as soon as you go online.

Photo credit: tonyjcase