Someone please build this: Anti-shelving filter for GMail

So you’ve done all your GTD karate today. Hundreds of mails out of the way. The balls are at their court, just waiting for their follow-up. Because they do follow up right? What if they don’t, how do you catch them, then?

One of the biggest problems of getting things done is other people. And that’s not going to change.

The people I’ve talked to all have different ways of doing this. They all work. But they’re also wrong.

  • In Entourage or Outlook, adding a task with a deadline to the email before sending it.
  • BCC’ing oneself and letting that copy stay in the inbox until a reply comes in
  • Simply trusting that the other part will reply (…)
  • Various real-life actions such as phone calls and colleagues
  • Moving the mail into a”for follow up” folder
  • Adding the follow-up to one’s own todo lists

The last one underlines what’s wrong with the rest. It’s adding to my load what should be in yours. The ball is in neither court, floating somewhere over the net, and the person with the most incentive will follow up. If they remember.

Enter the marketplace

The GMail extension mocked up above would be a good way to make it okay that the ball floats over the net. Even simpler could also do just fine. The only real problem with it is that it’s not real yet. I’m hoping the rise of the Google Apps Marketplace will join GMail labs in improving email in small ways like this.

Or maybe I should integrate it into my half-done, half-abandoned calendar project?

UPDATE: What do you know, an almost exact version of this appears in the Etacts browser extension. I installed it and it actually appears. To things though: How do I get the actual reminder, other than going to Etacts? I’d love for this feature to be available without having to breach my entire email database to a third party. Anyway, thumbs up.

UPDATE II: An interesting comment thread over at the Consumerist blog is unfolding. Please note that the “re-send” option in the mockup is not really the point of this idea. In fact, I agree, it’s a pretty terrible addition.

A parked car projector

A wall clock with an extra set of hands

A pet video phone

Calculating time difference with sky colors

A remote control with one button