Beeminding queues

I’ve been using other ways of trying to keep my inbox queue under control,
for both personal and work things. The trouble is that basically everything
is based around the number of outstanding emails. It’s not practical for me
to get to 0 frequently, since I’m using my inbox as a to-do list, often
sending emails to myself to put things into that queue. Tracking only the
number of emails is a problem because I frequently end up with tasks in the
queue that are particularly painful, and I’d always rather do something
else. So the queue stays shortish, but a few tasks are languishing
effectively forever.

My idea then is to Beemind something like task-days outstanding, so that an
email that’s been languishing for nearly two weeks is worth a dozen from
yesterday.

I’m not sure what Beeminder goal type would be best for that. There’s an
Inbox Zero goal, and perhaps I could just use that but feed it task-days as
input instead of number of emails? A general Do Less? I’m not sure of the
exact semantics of adding things to these goals (whether successive updates
replace the level or stack, for example) and would love a point to those
details. Beeminder users are mostly data nerds, after all.

If I find that this is working for me, I’ll probably patch or write an
extension for Gmail to count this value automatically, since it’s a bit of
bookkeeping overhead. On the other hand it would force me to look at and
acknowledge every task every day, so maybe that’s a good thing.

Any thoughts? Is there a name for this I just don’t know? I tried various
things about “support queues”, “backlog”, “SLA” and so on, but didn’t seem
to find anything.

Braden

My idea then is to Beemind something like task-days outstanding, so that an email that’s been languishing for nearly two weeks is worth a dozen from yesterday.

An interesting idea and I’ll look forward to anything else you post
about it, but if you end up automating this based on any of the dates
in the email header there’s something to beware of: Emails can
sometimes be delivered several days late due to temporary problems
with mail servers (four days isn’t unheard of). Worse, if a sending
mail server is misconfigured, any or all of the dates in the email
header can be dramatically incorrect - I’ve seen emails “sent” from
the future or from years in the past. One badly-dated email could
derail you if you don’t notice it in time. There’s ways to work around
this of course, but you just need to keep it in mind if you’re
automating anything based on email dates.

On 19 November 2013 08:41, Braden Shepherdson
braden.shepherdson@gmail.com wrote:

I’ve been using other ways of trying to keep my inbox queue under control,
for both personal and work things. The trouble is that basically everything
is based around the number of outstanding emails. It’s not practical for me
to get to 0 frequently, since I’m using my inbox as a to-do list, often
sending emails to myself to put things into that queue. Tracking only the
number of emails is a problem because I frequently end up with tasks in the
queue that are particularly painful, and I’d always rather do something
else. So the queue stays shortish, but a few tasks are languishing
effectively forever.

My idea then is to Beemind something like task-days outstanding, so that an
email that’s been languishing for nearly two weeks is worth a dozen from
yesterday.

I’m not sure what Beeminder goal type would be best for that. There’s an
Inbox Zero goal, and perhaps I could just use that but feed it task-days as
input instead of number of emails? A general Do Less? I’m not sure of the
exact semantics of adding things to these goals (whether successive updates
replace the level or stack, for example) and would love a point to those
details. Beeminder users are mostly data nerds, after all.

If I find that this is working for me, I’ll probably patch or write an
extension for Gmail to count this value automatically, since it’s a bit of
bookkeeping overhead. On the other hand it would force me to look at and
acknowledge every task every day, so maybe that’s a good thing.

Any thoughts? Is there a name for this I just don’t know? I tried various
things about “support queues”, “backlog”, “SLA” and so on, but didn’t seem
to find anything.

Braden


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I don’t think anyone’s done emails as to-dos adjusted for time, but Katja Grace
blogged about a system similar to what you want for a standard to-do list on
Overcoming Bias:
http://www.overcomingbias.com/2012/08/on-the-goodness-of-beeminder.html. Her
system was positive: She had to earn a certain number of points from to-dos,
earning more for tasks that were postponed longer — one extra point per week.

So I would suggest either adapting her system for email, using a "do more"
goal. Or you could do an Inbox Zero goal as you suggest assuming you can
reconfigure it to weigh older messages more heavily. That would be a negative
system: minimizing “outstanding task days” rather than maximizing to-do points
earned. I don’t think “do less” is a good fit since it doesn’t describe what
you’re aiming for.

It comes down to 1) whether you want to think in terms of maximizing tasks
completed or minimizing tasks remaining and 2) whether you want to decrease the
backlog at a steady rate (moving toward the “zero” or whatever number you pick
instead in InboxZero) or remove items at a steady rate (which might shrink,
grow, or maintain the backlog depending how fast items are added).

Best,
Alec

On Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 02:41:23PM -0800, Braden Shepherdson wrote:

I’ve been using other ways of trying to keep my inbox queue under control,
for both personal and work things. The trouble is that basically everything
is based around the number of outstanding emails. It’s not practical for me
to get to 0 frequently, since I’m using my inbox as a to-do list, often
sending emails to myself to put things into that queue. Tracking only the
number of emails is a problem because I frequently end up with tasks in the
queue that are particularly painful, and I’d always rather do something
else. So the queue stays shortish, but a few tasks are languishing
effectively forever.

My idea then is to Beemind something like task-days outstanding, so that an
email that’s been languishing for nearly two weeks is worth a dozen from
yesterday.

I’m not sure what Beeminder goal type would be best for that. There’s an
Inbox Zero goal, and perhaps I could just use that but feed it task-days as
input instead of number of emails? A general Do Less? I’m not sure of the
exact semantics of adding things to these goals (whether successive updates
replace the level or stack, for example) and would love a point to those
details. Beeminder users are mostly data nerds, after all.

If I find that this is working for me, I’ll probably patch or write an
extension for Gmail to count this value automatically, since it’s a bit of
bookkeeping overhead. On the other hand it would force me to look at and
acknowledge every task every day, so maybe that’s a good thing.

Any thoughts? Is there a name for this I just don’t know? I tried various
things about “support queues”, “backlog”, “SLA” and so on, but didn’t seem
to find anything.

Braden


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On Monday, November 18, 2013 5:41:23 PM UTC-5, Braden Shepherdson wrote:

My idea then is to Beemind something like task-days outstanding, so that
an email that’s been languishing for nearly two weeks is worth a dozen from
yesterday.

I love this idea for emails. If you find an easy way to automate tracking
it, let us know!