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Mail Pilot: A New Approach To Email and Task Management [Interview]

Mail Pilot: A New Approach To Email and Task Management [Interview]

    There are so many people that just won’t get out of their email application to manage tasks. While this has been a problem in the past, new solutions like Asana and Flow allow for email and task management to be integrated within the task management solution. In many cases, the person who doesn’t want to go into the task manager can simply respond and check off tasks via email, removing a lot of the friction that can happen in a team environment.

    But there’s a new kid on the block that actually lets you manage things from within email — using your email inbox as a task manager. That’s something that many people do already, but in a very impractical way. Mail Pilot looks as if it will add the practicality that’s been missing from the equation.

    Mail Pilot is a Kickstarter-funded project that tackles email and task management in a way that is innovative and productive.

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    What does Mail Pilot do? Well, here’s the word on that straight from the source:

    “Mail Pilot is a computer application & service that lets you use your current email accounts in a way that is much more intuitive than today’s email applications. Mail Pilot reimagines email from the ground up, and is built to fit into the workflow of how people use email today.”

    But that didn’t answer all of my questions. So I spoke about Mail Pilot with its creators, Josh Milas & Alex Obenauer, shortly after the project went live on Kickstarter.

    Mike: I’ve taken a look at Mail Pilot, and it looks really compelling because people who are wanting to manage and/or use their inbox to manage things in terms of productivity and such. Why did you decide to start this thing up and what was the plan behind it?

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    Alex: So I was in a class in the fall semester and we had to keep a design journal. And a couple of weeks into the semester the professor said that he was going to be doing a check of our journals…and I actually hadn’t written anything in mine yet. So I went home and I tried to come up with a problem that was so big and so problematic that would fill a lot of pages. I chose email because that’s one of my biggest issues — I receive 80 plus emails on average a day, which is less than most people’s average.

    And so I started to write about it — and within three pages the entire concept behind Mail Pilot was there. It was very much a thing where I had such an issue with email and really broke it down try to figure out what the essence of email was, and how you would rebuild the client around that essence…ignoring all kind of prior implementations. Then I shared the idea with Josh the next day — and he absolutely loved it. He has very similar problems with email and we had shared our woes together about it.

    From there he explained to me that (this) was legitimately something we should act on, that this was much bigger than just changing the way that the two of us use our email, but that this is something that not only do we have the time talents and gifts to make — but something we really should.

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      Mike:  Now there are a lot of productivity apps out there right now where they tell users to “get out of your inbox”, essentially saying that they shouldn’t be managing from within your email. Did you guys decide to go that route because either you tried stuff other task managers and it didn’t work for you and you just kept going back to managing things from email or do you think it’s just that it’s hard to get people to understand that there is an inbox for email and an inbox for all of their stuff?

      Alex: It’s definitely both. You know, one of the biggest time drains for us is translating everything in your inbox into your to-do list and translating them into a calendar…stuff like that. And then trying to put something into your to-do list or put it on to your calendar because you need to follow up with it and then link to that email — it just became a kind of complicated interconnected web of ‘to dos’, events and emails. And it didn’t seem to make much sense.

      So we really thought that if you could clear out your inbox, but those messages could still be marked for review, or marked to pop back up — say, reappear in three days — then that would help you severely decrease the clutter in your inbox and you wouldn’t have to spend the time working with a to-do list or a calendar. And the other thing too is that email is a standard. You can’t really get the entire market out of the inbox. Google proved that in a big way with Wave. I really liked what they did with the project but it was clear you couldn’t get people out of their email.

      Mike: Right. So you’re raising $35,000 through Kickstarter. Where will that money go to? What’s the plan for those funds?

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      Josh: The plan is that once we meet that goal is to bring on some additional developers to help us really get the product to market. And their goal would be to then release a beta version by June. That will first go to all of our Kickstarter backers so they can start using it and we can start getting some feedback on it. So essentially, about three months from the end of our campaign the plan would be to release our beta.

      Most of the money that we would raise would go to additional development support, ramping up  our server space — because a lot of our features are really services that would take up space. It’s not just folders and stuff that goes into your normal inbox. We have our own data that we have to store with Mail Pilot so we do need an amplified storage space. That’s a pretty heavy cost so that’s where another portion of the money would go to. But then after that, hopefully we can get out of the beta, release to public and go from there.

      Mike: I think one of your biggest battles is that there is so many players in this space. What do you think you are going to be able to do to combat that?

      Alex: There are definitely a lot of players in the space, but we definitely think that the workflow that fits right into the core of Mail Pilot is just so deliberate to the way that most (if not many) people who have used their email or try to use their email. And we think that’s it. It works so specifically well for people that it would be a very preferred option.

      The other thing is that right now we are a two man operation and so we wouldn’t need a majority of the market just to be sustainable. And so we have been excited to see what we’ve gotten so far and we are really excited to see if we can gain enough support to stay sustainable and then to really start spreading the concept around to a lot more people. So far people’s reactions have been so overwhelmingly positive towards the idea in favor over so many other ideas just because it’s so deliberate in the way it really works with your workflow.

      (Editor’s Note: Now that the project has been funded, the expectation is that Mail Pilot will hit the market sometime in June of this year.)

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      Last Updated on February 15, 2019

      7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

      7 Tools to Help Keep Track of Goals and Habits Effectively

      Now that 2011 is well underway and most people have fallen off the bandwagon when it comes to their New Year’s resolutions (myself included), it’s a good time to step back and take an honest look at our habits and the goals that we want to achieve.

      Something that I have learned over the past few years is that if you track something, be it your eating habits, exercise, writing time, work time, etc. you become aware of the reality of the situation. This is why most diet gurus tell you to track what you eat for a week so you have an awareness of the of how you really eat before you start your diet and exercise regimen.

      Tracking daily habits and progress towards goals is another way to see reality and create a way for you clearly review what you have accomplished over a set period of time. Tracking helps motivate you too; if I can make a change in my life and do it once a day for a period of time it makes me more apt to keep doing it.

      So, if you have some goals and habits in mind that need tracked, all you need is a tracking tool. Today we’ll look at 7 different tools to help you keep track of your habits and goals.

      Joe’s Goals

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        Joe’s Goals is a web-based tool that allows users to track their habits and goals in an easy to use interface. Users can add as many goals/habits as they want and also check multiple times per day for those “extra productive days”. Something that is unique about Joe’s Goals is the way that you can keep track of negative habits such as eating out, smoking, etc. This can help you visualize the good things that you are doing as well as the negative things that you are doing in your life.

        Joe’s Goals is free with a subscription version giving you no ads and the “latest version” for $12 a year.

        Daytum

          Daytum

          is an in depth way of counting things that you do during the day and then presenting them to you in many different reports and groups. With Daytum you can add several different items to different custom categories such as work, school, home, etc. to keep track of your habits in each focus area of your life.

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          Daytum is extremely in depth and there are a ton of settings for users to tweak. There is a free version that is pretty standard, but if you want more features and unlimited items and categories you’ll need Daytum Plus which is $4 a month.

          Excel or Numbers

            If you are the spreadsheet number cruncher type and the thought of using someone else’s idea of how you should track your habits turns you off, then creating your own Excel/Numbers/Google spreadsheet is the way to go. Not only do you have pretty much limitless ways to view, enter, and manipulate your goal and habit data, but you have complete control over your stuff and can make it private.

            What’s nice about spreadsheets is you can create reports and can customize your views in any way you see fit. Also, by using Dropbox, you can keep your tracker sheets anywhere you have a connection.

            Evernote

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              I must admit, I am an Evernote junky, mostly because this tool is so ubiquitous. There are several ways you can implement habit/goal tracking with Evernote. You won’t be able to get nifty reports and graphs and such, but you will be able to access your goal tracking anywhere your are, be it iPhone, Android, Mac, PC, or web. With Evernote you pretty much have no excuse for not entering your daily habit and goal information as it is available anywhere.

              Evernote is free with a premium version available.

              Access or Bento

                If you like the idea of creating your own tracker via Excel or Numbers, you may be compelled to get even more creative with database tools like Access for Windows or Bento for Mac. These tools allow you to set up relational databases and even give you the option of setting up custom interfaces to interact with your data. Access is pretty powerful for personal database applications, and using it with other MS products, you can come up with some pretty awesome, in depth analysis and tracking of your habits and goals.

                Bento is extremely powerful and user friendly. Also with Bento you can get the iPhone and iPad app to keep your data anywhere you go.

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                You can check out Access and the Office Suite here and Bento here.

                Analog Bonus: Pen and Paper

                All these digital tools are pretty nifty and have all sorts of bells and whistles, but there are some people out there that still swear by a notebook and pen. Just like using spreadsheets or personal databases, pen and paper gives you ultimate freedom and control when it comes to your set up. It also doesn’t lock you into anyone else’s idea of just how you should track your habits.

                Conclusion

                I can’t necessarily recommend which tool is the best for tracking your personal habits and goals, as all of them have their quirks. What I can do however (yes, it’s a bit of a cop-out) is tell you that the tool to use is whatever works best for you. I personally keep track of my daily habits and personal goals with a combo Evernote for input and then a Google spreadsheet for long-term tracking.

                What this all comes down to is not how or what tool you use, but finding what you are comfortable with and then getting busy with creating lasting habits and accomplishing short- and long-term goals.

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