A responsive inbox is almost always empty within a few minutes of checking it. It fosters rapid response times. Think of how frustrating it is to wait for days for a response, or to never get one at all!
For at least 10 years now the inbox has been a constant factor in our lives. This drives many of us to use it for conflicting purposes, a noification queue and a todo list. Here are some of the symptoms:
Separating notifications from todos has significant advantages. The problem is trust and visibility in a task management system, putting it in front of my face almost as often as I check my email and maybe eventually moreso. Astrid hepls put a time management system in front of my face every day. It has a fantastic mobile interface on Android and iOS. The web interface is sufficient, though I hope they can speed it up. I pin it in Chrome, right next to my inbox. Astrid provides the visibility I need to separate notifications from time management.
The simplest way to achieve this separation is to treat our inbox as a notification queue. When we work on it we are actively handling notifications and scheduling tasks into something like Astrid. Processing notifications is really just a recurring task that could be scheduled too. Scott Hanselman recommends this to avoid your inbox becoming a distraction like facebook. Once the inbox is empty go back to Astrid for the next item of work.
Several blogs and videos advocate handling email, and other notifications, using the system of 4Ds: Drop it, Do it now, Do it later or Delegate it. This is a great foundation to get through your inbox quickly!
Stop using your inbox as a todo list. Clean it out every time you check it. Use the 4Ds to schedule a task for anything you can't handle quickly. Get used to using a time management system. This will keep your inbox responsive!