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This article was published on June 27, 2012

Task management startup Asana launches “Inbox”, believes it will cut down your email time by up to 50%

Task management startup Asana launches “Inbox”, believes it will cut down your email time by up to 50%
Martin SFP Bryant
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Martin SFP Bryant


Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-qualit Martin Bryant is founder of Big Revolution, where he helps tech companies refine their proposition and positioning, and develops high-quality, compelling content for them. He previously served in several roles at TNW, including Editor-in-Chief. He left the company in April 2016 for pastures new.

The last mention of Asana on The Next Web saw the announcement of its business model: premium workspaces. Today we’re back to a focus on productivity-enhancing new features, and one that’s potentially very disruptive.

Asana is launching “Inbox” a feature that aims to drastically reduce the amount of time you spend in your email by aiming to bring the vast majority internal communication into Asana.

On face value, the feature is relatively simple, a stream of updates relating to everything you’re working on – but on further inspection its impact is potentially game-changing.

What is Inbox?

Inbox collects every snippet of activity from across your Asana projects into a single stream. The stream is full of anything and everything happening across the company workspace: new tasks, completed tasks, comments, assignments and more. Of course you only see updates on tasks and projects you’re subscribed to, and while in most cases you’ll probably want to be aware of each of those, unlike email, Asana’s Inbox is more customizable; you can simply follow or unfollow items in your Inbox with a single click or ‘flag’ them as important to ensure you never miss them.

Updates in Asana’s Inbox are smart and designed to be processed quickly. For example, related tasks and projects are grouped to simplify processing. Once you’ve processed an item in your Inbox, Asana automatically archives it to ensure you only see new updates in your feed. Of course, finding any archived items is only a click away.

What’s particularly useful about Inbox is the context surrounding each item in the feed. With Inbox you’re not simply seeing a message in a stream like email, you’re a click away from an up-to-date history of everything to do with the item – documents, comments, notes etc.

Early Days But This Has Legs

Now this is all good and well, but it’s early days and there are elements of Inbox I’d like to see improved. After all, with Asana’s Inbox you may very well end up spending less time in email but if its simply displaced with another service I’d rather just stay where I am. Thankfully, Asana’s Inbox has enough going for it to make me believe our company (yes, disclosure: TNW is an Asana customer) might just find ourselves more productive in Asana’s Inbox over our emails’. But of course, worst case scenario, you end up checking Asana as often as you do email and end up with two time sucks.

So what makes me believe Asana’s Inbox has legs?

The most potentially productive element of the Inbox is that each item of activity is directly related to a project or task your team is working on – keeping you focused on what you should be doing, focusing on achieving your goals.

Then there’s the context Asana attaches to each item. It’s invaluable and something email doesn’t currently offer. As Asana puts it “The [Asana] Inbox gives you the whole story.”

However, I am missing three key features:

  • Notifications of some sort. The idea is you should eventually be able to disable all email notifications from Asana, which is great – but if I end up checking Asana every few minutes for updates then we’re back to square one. So a desktop or browser notification system would come in very handy.
  • Being able to post status updates into the stream for particular groups to see. Other team members could comment under each status update. At the moment, Asana is only task oriented. This is something Asana co-founder Justin Rosenstein says they might introduce before long.
  • A stream of updates across Workspaces. Asana lets you create Workspaces for each big project or company you’re working on. Currently they’re completely detached and so there’s no way to view a stream of tasks from across all your Workspaces and similarly no way to view a “master Inbox” of all updates across all workspaces. Sadly, I won’t be holding my breath for this one.

Irrespective of whether Asana’s Inbox is the game changer businesses have been waiting for – Asana  says it has reduced email activity by up to 50% –  it’s exciting to see companies like Asana attempt to solve the still unsolved email conundrum.

Rosenstein concedes email isn’t going away soon but with ambitions to lead us into an era of what they’re calling a “post-email” world, I’m willing to be a guinea pig for trial and error. That said, after many attempts, this might be the most hopeful yet.

You can sign up for a free account with Asana here. Premium Workspaces vary in pricing from $100/month through to $800+ but Asana’s new Inbox feature is available to all.

Asana is co-founded by Dustin Moskovitz (co-founder of Facebook) and Justin Rosenstein (ex-Google and Facebook); and funded by some of tech’s most prominent investors, including Marc Andreessen, Peter Thiel and Ron Conway.