Plus, why a needs-reply count is not. 

One of my favorite email-related questions to ask is: “how many unread emails are in your inbox right now?”

The average is 1,190!

Think about where you see that number.  In Outlook, there it is in parentheses to the right of your Inbox folder; Gmail displays it there as well, and also in your browser tab. On your smartphone, it lies in red wrapper atop many mail application icons.  Indeed, by default nearly every email client puts this number front and center as if it were the most important indicator of the state of your inbox.

But is it? If you have 1,190 unread emails and you get 5 more, can you really tell the difference?  Do you often think to yourself: “I have to tackle 4567 unread emails today?” Unless you keep your inbox well-managed (and some people do) the unread count is a worthless number.

But that doesn’t mean all email counts are worthless. What you really need is a badge or count that means something real - something that calls for action. Given Skimbox’s present functionality, it’d be easy enough to show a badge for the number of unread important emails. (Why is this worthy? Well, if people have thousands of unread emails, it seems pretty safe to assume the bulk of them are not important or they would have been read.)  Even for those rare inbox zero adherents, knowing there are 5 important unread emails would be much more useful than knowing there were 11 unread emails.

So the unread important count seems useful, but let’s take it even further. Since many of us treat our email like a to-do list, and since many of those to-do’s are in part to-answers, what about a needs-reply count?

If, instead of knowing I had 20 unread emails or 12 unread important emails, I knew I had 5 emails that needed a reply, I would know exactly how much email-related work I had to do at any given point.

There’s also the benefit of reduced notifications, aka reduced distractions, aka increased productivity.

Now, a needs-reply count isn’t available in any email clients or applications today, but the good news is it will be popping up in a Skimbox near you in the near future.

Don't want to wait? Skimbox to the present is available here! (Skimbox to the present, enterprise edition is here.)

Like it/dislike it/have other feedback? Let us know in the comments!