Project Management guide
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Why Should I Use an Inbox in Project Management Software?

A project management software inbox helps you keep track of all your important project updates right inside of your software. For example, it allows you to automatically receive inbox notifications whenever any of the following occur:

  • You’re mentioned on a task, project, or folder.
  • A task, project, folder, report, dashboard, or calendar is shared with you.
  • You’re made a project owner or assigned a task.
  • One of your tasks is deleted, restored, or changed.
  • A project you own is deleted or restored.
  • The immediate predecessors of one of your tasks are completed.
  • All subtasks are completed, canceled, or deferred, but the parent task is still active, and you’re assigned to it.

Why is a project management software inbox valuable?

Communication is essential to team collaboration. Yet when you’re relying on other features like an activity feed to keep you up to date, it can be hard to separate out the priority items and messages. An inbox is an ideal way to monitor discussions and filter for just the information you need to be aware of.

A project management software inbox makes team collaboration faster by showing you all your new assignments and @mentions in one place, without mixing in general work updates.

When you view your inbox, you can quickly see all your new notifications and reply to comments. You can also reschedule or add tasks to My Work, or place tasks in the appropriate folders/projects.

Features of a project management software inbox

When your project management software includes an inbox tab, you have even faster access to the information you need. Your inbox should provide you with all of the following:

  • One place to see all your @mentions and assignments.
  • A convenient repository for all of your notifications.
  • The ability to click any notification and immediately navigate to the associated task in a separate pane of your software window.

Here are some additional features you should look for in a project management software inbox:

Archiving messages

Have you ever deleted a message, only to have someone ask you about it later? Most of us have been asked about a conversation or discussion months or even years after it occurred.

It’s important to store any project information in case you need it later, and this includes project-related messages. Whether it’s an audit question about changes, or another project manager asking for advice on how you handled something, past communications can become important when you least expect it.

But if you can’t delete your messages, what will you do with them? You don’t want them to clutter up your inbox or take up valuable storage space.

The answer is that you archive them.

By archiving messages, you can compress them so they take up less space, and you can move them out of your primary inbox folder(s).

A good practice is to archive any @mention, assignment, or message once you’ve read it and taken the necessary action. This moves it out of your "Incoming" view and cleans out your Inbox.

By practicing frequent archiving, you can ensure that only messages or requests that still need your attention are in your inbox.

Inbox divisions

Ideally, your project management software inbox will be divided into several sections, such as the following:

  • Incoming: This section of your inbox is where any received messages show up. It includes both your unread and read messages, sorted by date. Within the incoming section, you should have the ability to filter for "all updates" or "only unread."
  • Sent: The sent section of your inbox should show sent emails as well as any cards with comments that you left on tasks, folders, and projects.
  • Starred: The starred option allows you to quickly view a list of tasks that have been starred. You should also be able to drag and drop tasks into this section of your inbox in order to “star” them. Typically, if a task is starred in your project management software, that means it’s a priority.
  • Archive: The archive section is where all archived messages and notifications go.
Notification management

You need to be able to monitor and manage your notifications directly in your project management software inbox.

This means that there should be an easy way to quickly see how many unread notifications you have, such as an icon with the number in it. A common feature is for there to be a number at the top or on the right side of the inbox tab indicating how many unread @mentions or task assignment notifications you have.

It’s also helpful if your project management software allows you to quickly understand what tasks are due today or overdue by showing you a special notification, such as illustrating the due date on the notification card.

You should have the ability to disable notifications for unessential updates. For instance, if you don’t want or need to know whether a task assigned to you is in a dependency chain and its immediate predecessors are completed, you should have the option of disabling that notification.

This function will help keep your inbox clean and ensure that you only receive messages that are relevant to you.

Another option is to snooze notifications that you may not want to see right now but want (or need) to get back to in the future. When you snooze an inbox notification, the card moves to the archive section temporarily. It will reappear at the top of the incoming section (and is marked as unread) on the day/time you specify when you snooze it.

For example, if you’re working on a critical deliverable for the next 2 days or away in customer meetings, you may snooze all notifications during that time period. This allows you to receive and review them when you have time, without them distracting you in the meantime.

Email integration

As a project manager, you probably already have a company email, whether in Outlook or Gmail. With email integration, you can synchronize your other email account with your project management software inbox.

This feature allows you to ensure nothing is ever missed. Plus it enables you to consolidate all of your important messages in one place and avoid having to manage two separate inboxes.

If you don’t want to integrate your emails, you should have the option to forward your emails to your project management software. You should also be able to send emails directly to folders by putting the folder name or folder ID number right in the subject line of the email.

But what if you want to send an email to someone and store a copy of that sent email in your project software? You don’t want to confuse the recipient by putting the folder name or long ID number in the email subject.

In this case, you can use the task or folder ID in the CC field to send a copy of the email to the folder.

Further Reading
blog post

Presenting Inbox: A New, More Robust Notification Center

blog post

Helping You Reach the Mythical Inbox Zero

blog post

Email Management: 10 Clever Tricks to Hit Inbox Zero