Fog Creek

3 Steps to Clean Up Your Inbox with FogBugz

If you consider yourself a disciplined person, or want to be, that strives for inbox zero and Getting Things Done®, one of the first steps (paraphrased) is simplifying what you have to do. That’s where FogBugz comes in. FogBugz can help you simplify what you have to do when it comes to your inbox with Mailboxes, Notifications, and Filters.

Let’s start with a reasonable guess that you’re talking with your customers, or clients, over email. This happens all day, every day. The great thing about your email provider or email client is that it probably has super awesome search to help you find things when you need them. But your inbox is always full of emails, and things to do at different phases of your process(es), and you’re always losing track of that item you starred that you swore you were going to do a week ago. Have you considered what happens to your email workflow when your business grows and you hire 2 or 3 more colleagues? How do they see what’s going on and react independently? It would be great if everyone could see the same email threads without forwarding emails to each other or cc’ing everyone a million times over. And, you could start tying all these emails together with the bug reports you’re getting for your software, and your planned feature releases.

getting things done fogbugz

Here are a few steps to get your inbox cleared up, and your newly hired colleagues on the same page:

1. Let FogBugz Turn Incoming Emails into Cases

The first step is to get your group email account connected to FogBugz – we call that a Mailbox. Instead of using a distribution list like hello@fogcreek.com, make that an actual email account and enable IMAP/POP3 access.

create a mailbox in fogbugz

Since your customers or clients already have this email address, you don’t need to give them a new way of contacting you. Whenever you receive an email to hello@fogcreek.com, FogBugz turns that boring old email into a case!

You can even configure a custom automatic response for your mailbox. When anyone emails you (at hello@fogcreek.com), they know you’ve received their email, and that you’ll get back to them as soon as you can.

Instead of working primarily out of your inbox, you will start working primarily out of FogBugz. Your customer or client communication will be side-by-side with features and bug reports bringing everyone on your team together. Instead of your colleague yelling or putting in chat “Hey Bob, did you email Julie yet?!”, your colleague can do a quick search like below in FogBugz so that you’re not interrupted:

correspondent:"julie.voigt@mistyriversoftware.com" edited:today

Note: Copy and paste the search into your FogBugz search box and hit enter. Ensure you change the email address to one relevant to you.

Running that search you then find the case yourself and you know that Julie’s bug report and feature request are being taken care of. And you haven’t interrupted Bob.

Long story short, you’re using FogBugz to email back and forth with the people you need to email with. By doing so, you automatically get full history, audit history even, and your colleagues are all on the same page.

Pro Tip: Configure you Mailbox to automatically set a due date so you don’t have to. For example, you can set it from 1 hour to several days.

2. Configure Your In-App Notifications

By default, FogBugz will send you an email to alert you about new Cases (created from emails) or updates to existing Cases. Receiving email notifications about emails isn’t, in itself, a solution that moves you toward a clear Inbox. Replace email notifications with FogBugz On Demand in-app Notifications to minimize your email clutter. This allows you to get all your notifications in the web application, and remove them from your inbox.

02_mark-as-read

Quickly configure this in your FogBugz user options by choosing the “Never” option for email frequency – it’s ok, it’s not as scary as it sounds.

If you like the idea of never receiving email updates, but you want to try something in between – we have got just the thing for you! Set your email frequency to “Periodic” and you’ll get a digest of all of your notifications.

Now you’ve got a proper mailbox in FogBugz, and you’re using the in-app Notifications, what else can you do? In-app Notifications are great for interrupt-driven work, but what about when you’re trying to plan what to do next, or simply just do what’s next on the “list”?

3. Create and Share Custom Saved Searches

In short, the third step is to use Shared Filters in FogBugz. These will show you what you or someone else, is doing, and what you have to do next. Tidy up multiple Shared Filters with the new Grouped Filters feature.

First, start with everything that you might have missed yesterday – it’s ok, you don’t have to admit that you didn’t get to that one case yesterday (we won’t tell anyone, pinky swear). FogBugz can help you with that overlooked case today! Run a search for anything due up until today, like so:

due:"..today" orderby:due status:open assignedto:me

Note: status:open includes active and resolved cases, choose status:active if you don’t want resolved cases to show up. This may be more helpful if you’re using the postpone cases feature.

Save that filter. Then, do your colleagues a favor and share it with them so they have it too. It’ll save them precious minutes of their valuable time!

Again, those of you who are familiar with FogBugz may realize that the search above is essentially the default “My Cases” filter. Yes, in a way it is; the default “My Cases” filter will show you everything assigned to you, but it won’t order it by due date or specifically include only the cases due today – this one does.

This filter is a great start, but you should probably create another shared filter that shows all your specific Support (and/or Sales) cases due today:

due:"..today" orderby:due status:open assignedto:me project:inbox area:support

Pro Tip: Swap out ‘area:support’ with ‘(area:sales OR area:support)’ to get cases from both areas.

Maybe you’re managing the sales and support teams, or maybe you’re just curious if sales efforts have any yet-unmentioned positive or negative effects on the support team. Create a third filter for that and share it:

due:"..today" orderby:due status:open project:inbox area:support

I could go on and on about filters all day, but I’m going to stop here. The point is that you have these three filters which represent work you’re going to do, or are doing, and now you can organize them into a group, or groups, that makes sense to you. Create a “Watching” group for anything you’ll read to catch up on. Create a “Sales” group, for well, your sales cases and so on.

Screenshot of creating a new filter group and adding a filter to it

Adding your Mailbox to FogBugz, using in-app Notifications and using and sharing custom filters are three steps to get you well on your way to a cleaner inbox, and automatic collaboration with your newfound colleagues. It’s time to team up!

We offer a free 30-day trial of FogBugz – try it for free with a colleague at try.fogbugz.com. Each trial includes Kiln with Code Reviews, our source control product.