Breef's Big Idea

Have you ever thought about why we use email? Where it fits in?

We collaborate in email to unblock our goals.

E.g. if you’ve got a project in Asana, chances are you’re discussing it in Gmail, Slack and meetings. Discussion keeps you progressing.

(This isn’t only true for projects… the philosophy is true for sales too - your goal is to ultimately land a customer that you can help, and your communication is unblocking that. And it’s true for people who want to learn: you’re interested in a topic, and you subscribe to email newsletters to unblock you with education.)

That’s the hierarchy: you have goals, and you communicate with others to keep unblocking them and moving them forward.

The Big Hairy Problem is that no one told your tools. They’re siloes. Each one thinks they’re the center of your world.

  • Gmail says “Emails are everything! Keep receiving emails! I don’t know what the point of them is though, so I’ll just dump them in the order they arrived. DING! HAVE ANOTHER EMAIL!
  • Meanwhile, Calendar says, “Events are everything! I don’t know where they fit in your bigger ambitions, so I’ll just tell you have an event in 10 minutes. And then another in 30 minutes. I won’t give you any context to help you prepare, because what else is there?! NOW, GO GO GO, YOUR MEETING IS ALREADY HAPPENING!
  • Meanwhile, your project management tool says, “I’m your ultimate authority. You do as I say. Here are your projects. You may only discuss them where I tell you you can discuss them. YOU BETTER NOT BE DISCUSSING THIS ANYWHERE ELSE. Wait, why are there things I don’t know? No, I’m infallible, trust me I know everything. Except whatever it is you’re discussing behind my back.

This is why communication feels chaotic; and our tracking tools feel untrustworthy, forcing you to go searching through chat archives to see the latest status of your projects and meetings…

Nothing recognizes that emails are really just a sub task of a higher goal.

It’s ironic that the tool that was supposed to help you collaborate in order to get unblocked, ultimately paralyzes you with such a massive list of disorganized messages, that you’re more blocked than ever.

With ActiveInbox - which was the first task manager for Gmail back in 2006 - I’ve spent a long time adding software support to help you deal with the fact that emails are just badly formatted tasks, which you can prioritize with due dates, and manually organize into goals.

But it has two conceptual parts that could be improved:

  • It requires your energy to keep organizing new emails into your lists. When you’re truly overwhelmed, you have no time for that - so at the exact moment you need the most control, things can fall apart.
  • It doesn’t play well with your other tools, so it isn’t instantly aware of where your emails fit into the bigger picture.

Breef is designed to be as automatic as possible, to require no input. So that it’s always a system you trust.

It does this by making intelligent predictions about which emails still need action, and it groups them into automatically-deduced goals. E.g. it integrates with Google Calendar, to present all emails with other attendees of your meeting. Or when you write an email, it pulls together all your history with the recipient, so you can serve them better.

But you’ve still got the problem of competing priorities. We all have more goals than we have hours in the day.

To help with that, Breef is built around automatic triggers to show you the most imminent goals. E.g. with the calendar integration, if a meeting is about to start in 4 hours, but you don’t have a reply to emails yet, it’s extremely urgent that you get prepared.

tl;dr? You have goals in your life, and you collaborate in email to unblock them. Breef reframes Gmail around your goals, prioritizing them by urgency, and automatically surfaces emails that need action, to keep you unblocked and progressing. It calls this a breefing.

Be briefed, briefly, to be brilliant