by Dan Kaplan
June 27th, 2012
Email is a 40-year-old technology designed to send electronic letters, yet we rely on it to communicate and coordinate nearly everything about our work. We use it to make requests, ask questions, remind each other what we’re working on, and send documents back and forth in a ping-pong match that never seems to end.
Many of us check email several times throughout every day, trying to stay up to speed and prevent work from slipping through the cracks. But we get lost, trying to piece together critical information, unable to decide what to focus on in an ever-growing sea of noise. Because anyone can add anything to our email inbox, it robs us of our sense of control.
Email is the system we rely on most to be productive, but it has become a counter-productivity tool.
Since our launch last November, tens of thousands of teams at great companies like Foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Airbnb have turned to Asana to eliminate much of the “work about work” that used to slow them down. Redundant meetings, tedious summary reports, endless streams of status updates, all replaced by the flow of Asana’s shared task list, with all the related thinking and documents right with each task.
But up to now, even Asana users have had to face the biggest “work about work” time-sink of all: using email to stay on top of everything that has changed. But starting today, we’re rolling out Inbox, a better way to communicate about work with your team.
Inbox connects you to all the new activity and communication about all the work that matters to you. It takes inspiration from the best of email, activity feeds, and other notification systems, but focuses completely on effortless coordination from the ground up.
There are three key ways Inbox is better than email to stay up-to-speed on what matters:
Inbox gives you the whole story.
When you get a new update in Inbox, you’re not just getting a new isolated message. With one click, you see the entire history and up-to-date status of the work that it’s about: who owns it; the summary notes; all the relevant documents and comments from your teammates. Every communication in Inbox is directly connected to the single shared source of truth about the work.
Based on the new information, you can act immediately. Decisions to reassign the work or change its due date won’t get lost, but can be instantly reflected in the shared public record that everyone in the project can see. Months later, if a new teammate wants to know how a decision was made, they can just search for that task, without needing to bug you to forward them the email chain.
Inbox gives you control.
With email, you’re at the mercy of the sender. You can’t get off threads you don’t care about, and you can’t guarantee you’ll be kept abreast about the projects you do. Inbox shows you updates on all — and only — the tasks and projects you are explicitly following. Add yourself as a follower to exactly the set of tasks that you care about. If someone adds you to a thread and it’s no longer relevant, drop off in one click.
Inbox makes you faster.
We’ve thought hard about how to make Inbox as fast as reading a personalized executive summary. You can scan quickly through new information without having to open each thread one by one, like you would when reading a news article.
Inbox also turns the traditional email workflow on its head: every read message is archived by default, making “inbox zero” the path of least resistance. But as you read, you can explicitly mark individual messages for follow-up, preserving the reliability of email.
Since turning on Inbox for ourselves, we’ve seen over half our email disappear. Many of us have gone from checking email multiple times an hour to a couple times a day. The total time we spend processing new information has declined to a small fraction of what it used to be.
The post-email world
Email is a lowest-common-denominator communication platform. Not long ago, people shared photos and planned events over email. Products like Facebook upgraded that social communication by creating a better medium, custom-built for those purposes. A similar transition is happening for communication about work. Business is ready to evolve to a post-email world. We believe Asana is the first credible post-email application.
Inbox takes the time and effort you used to spend staying on top of your work email, and gives it an upgrade. Like everything we’ve built in Asana, Inbox has been constructed for coordination from the ground up. The result is a product that ties every piece of new information to the whole story, gives you total control over the information that flows and makes you operate faster.
We’re rolling out Inbox to all of our users over the next few days, so keep an eye out for it and let us know what you think. We hope you agree that Inbox will make it that much easier for your great teams to do great things.
(For more information on Inbox, visit this article on our Guide site).