March 23, 2012
ActionComplete integrates with email in a few interesting and useful ways. This article highlights the most important aspects of email integration and presents several scenarios when it can prove quite handy.
What is ActionComplete email integration?
In a nutshell, it's a set of techniques you can use to get your data in and out of ActionComplete via email. You can email your tasks to your ActionComplete email address that you get when you join the service. You can enable incoming email notifications to make sure your emailed task made it safely to ActionComplete. For any task you can setup an email reminder. You can even setup an email reminder when emailing a task to ActionComplete!
Did you know that you can check off (mark complete) a task by simply replying to an ActionComplete reminder or notification with the word done in the body of the email? Now you do.
What is my ActionComplete email address?
When you sign in to ActionComplete for the first time you get a special email address that ends with @actioncomplete-pro.appspotmail.com. It starts with an alias, or your username, that you can view and change in the Options form accessible via Tools/Options... menu. If your username is brown, your full ActionComplete email address will look like this: firstname.lastname@example.org.
How do I email a task to ActionComplete?
Emailing a task in is as easy as sending an email to your ActionComplete email address. In the subject of the email you type the task name followed by a combination of task attributes such as type (action, wait, project, idea), tags, places, a weight, and a due date, in any order. The task attributes are totally optional - simply typing a task name and hitting the Send button is perfectly OK. ActionComplete always tags incoming tasks with the sender's email address so that they are easy to find.
If you do want to assign a task a few attributes - and you usually do - you use the hashmark (#), the asterisk (*), and the @ character to tell ActionComplete that a part of the subject line has a special meaning. You use * for the task type, # for tags and weights, and @ for GTD-style tags (@computer, @phone, etc), places, and due dates. ActionComplete figures out what you mean.
An email subject can look like this:
Buy flowers #personal #out and about @florist *idea #85 @2/14/12
In the example above Buy flowers in the task name, idea is the task type, personal and out and about are tags, florist is a place, 85 is a weight, and 2/14/12 is a due date.
The body of the email becomes either a note or an attachment. An email body up to 300 characters long becomes a task note while a longer body is converted to a Google Docs document that is automatically attached to the task.
A hint: you can forward emails to ActionComplete. This technique can be very useful for tracking online orders as described below.
How do I enable incoming email notifications?
To get notified when an emailed task successfully arrives to ActionComplete you check Acknowledge incoming tasks checkbox in the Options form (Tools/Options... menu).
The body of the email notification tells you back all the attributes that were actually attached to the task so that you can make sure you didn't misspell a tag name and the due date is what you expect it to be.
How do I setup an email reminder?
Setting up an email reminder is as easy as selecting Email from the Reminder Type drop-down in a New/Edit task form. Alternatively you can specify a due date when you email a task to ActionComplete and a 6AM email reminder will be setup automatically on the due date.
How do I check off (mark complete) a task via the email interface?
To mark a task complete simply reply to an ActionComplete reminder or notification and put the word done (Done, DONE, DOne, etc) in the email body. If you want to get fancy you can type the task name in the email subject and say done in the body.
Why use the email integration?
Typing an email subject and clicking Send button is much faster that clicking through all the form fields. ActionComplete email interface allows you to capture your thoughts and ideas before they slip away. You might want to use an *idea attribute and a tag for categorization.
Closed-loop GTD Process
The 2-way nature of the email interface allows you to manage the whole lifecycle of a task via email. Assign a task a due date during its creation and you'll get an email reminder on the due date. Reply to the reminder with the word done in the email body to check off the task.
Streamlined Follow-up Process
For an average GTDer quite a few tasks are not (immediately) actionable but do require a follow-up. Many emails sitting in a mailbox of a typical office worker are of this type. Tracking online orders is another example that comes to mind. To reduce your mailbox clutter, forward those emails to ActionComplete and annotate them with *wait and @<due date> attributes. You'll get your tasks back in your inbox when they are actionable.
For more information on ActionComplete email integration please have a look at the user manual.