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When you hear the word “inbox” you most likely think of email or perhaps, if you’re old-school, a more old-fashioned mailbox. The word has always been connected to mail of different types, but when you think about it, the word also implies more general subjects. Organizing, prioritizing, discarding and saving are all actions taken when you view an inbox – or at least they’re actions we should take, although we don’t always feel like it.

Midnight Inbox is a program for Mac that takes those broader concepts and turns them into a rather unique program that is part email inbox, part document organizer, part to-do list and part task manager. If this sounds a bit confusing, it is. But it’s also very helpful.

Work Flow

When I first opened Midnight Inbox I was a bit confused. I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into, but I expected something more like a traditional inbox 4 Simple Steps to Achieving & Maintaining Inbox Zero in Gmail 4 Simple Steps to Achieving & Maintaining Inbox Zero in Gmail Read More . You configure your email and settings, things come in, and you view them. Doing this marks them as read, so you don’t have to deal with them anymore. That’s basically how your typical inbox works.

Midnight Inbox, however, is a bit different. It’s not just focused on collecting things and putting them in a box. It’s also designed to help you sort through things and do so consistently. As such, it is broken up into different areas which flow together.

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  • Organize – This is where you can create projects. A project is simply something you need to do – it could be writing an important email or reviewing a document. You can set the importance of a project and how much effort (in minutes) is likely to be required.
  • Review – New projects are set up for review, which lets you designate items that need to be revisited later or on a daily/weekly basis. Your items for reviewed are listed here.
  • Work – This view lets you see your currently active projects and tick them off when completed. You can also organize work into categories, such as home, office, errands, and categories you create yourself.

  • Reference – When you have an item that you need later, like an email with company information or a research document you need for school, you can stick it into reference. Reference is broken up into various categories to make it easier to recall information.
  • Archive – This is where things that are done go initially.
  • Trash – This is where archived items are sent when you are sure you don’t need them anymore.

Not all items will go through all of these steps, but this flow of work is the basic framework around which Midnight Inbox is organized. It is confusing at first, and I think the program could do with some sort of tutorial. I couldn’t find much in the way of help at the Midnight Inbox website, but that’s not terribly surprising. Midnight Inbox was once a paid program; its freeware release seems to have occurred because the developer, Midnight Beep Softworks, is focusing on the release of Midnight Inbox 2.0 instead of this older version.

Task Management

Even if you’re not interested in Midnight Inbox’s ability to collect various files and emails and make them into actionable items, you can still use Midnight Inbox for managing your time. At its heart, Midnight Inbox is really a to-do program that also is capable of collecting your documents and emails.

When used for pure task management, you simply need to skip pass the Collect and Process steps and start at Organize. You can create a new project here, rate it for effort and importance, and set it up with a review schedule. When creating new projects it is important to remember that the Review section can be customized as well. You can set how frequently, in terms of days, weeks or even years, you want to see a project come up for review. You can also add individual actions to a project, which means a project can have multiple steps. Alternatively, you can create a new action on the fly using the Quick Action button, for those times when something unexpected occurs!

Once you create a project, you can embark on it by selecting it, opening its menu and selecting Activate Selected Action. The timer at the top of Midnight Inbox will begin to count down based on the amount of effort you thought would be required for the task. If you run out of time you’ll be hit with the “Are you shaving a Yak?” message – a funny reminder that you’re out of time. When you’re done, you can check the project off in your organizer.

Conclusion

Midnight Inbox is different. The biggest problem I think most users will have with it is that in its almost too anal about organization. The workflow is pretty intense, and it isn’t for someone who just wants to lump stuff into a few categories and be done with it. Of course, you can already do that with a normal email inbox, so you’d be barking up the wrong tree anyway.

But whenever a program is a bit different from the norm, it opens new possibilities. If you feel like your daily schedule is a bit out of hand and you have emails and documents constantly piling up, give Midnight Inbox a try. It might just be your savior.

To download Midnight Inbox Classic, simple head over to Midnight Beep and click on the “Yes, it’s free” link corresponding to Inbox Classic 1.5.

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