My Inbox

My Three Inboxes and Workflow

Those of us that are nerdy enough to write posts like this are really writing them for ourselves. But there are some voyeur-geeks out there that like to look at how other people work, especially when it comes to the digital tools other people use. There are also some people that really like to look for ways to be more efficient and more effective. I have a friend like that.

Physical Inbox

I have a physical inbox for the paper that still seems to pour into my life. That’s really just a place to hold things for a while. That physical inbox sits right next to a Fujitsu ScanSnap scanner, and that’s where my real workflow begins.

It doesn’t really matter what the paper is, it could be a bill, it could be a magazine article, or it could be a receipt, but whatever it is gets scanned straight into my digital inbox. If it doesn’t get scanned, it gets shredded.

Whenever I find myself waiting for something or someone, I scan things into my digital inbox.

My Evernote

Digital Inbox

I use Evernote as my digital inbox. I scan everything directly into the Evernote Inbox (you can set up your ScanSnap to scan straight into Evernote).

I let things pile up in the Evernote Inbox all week long. On Saturday mornings, I go through all the digital stuff I collected throughout the week and sort them into the appropriate notebooks.

My bills and financial records go into a local notebook, a notebook that isn’t sync’d to the Cloud. If you are using Evernote, you’re going to want some notebooks for private documents that are stored on your hard drive and backed up securely. But most of what I accumulate needs to be archived.

Anything that requires that I do something or that I take some kind of action, gets moved to my task manager inbox.

Omnifocus Inbox

Omnifocus is a task manager. A lot of people find it to complicated to use, but I think the more complicated your life, the more important it is to have a good system for keeping track of all of your commitments. OF lets me sort task into areas of responsibility, project folders, and contexts (which is really a location or resource, like at an office, telephone, store, or something like that).

I collect all of my tasks into Omnifocus. I dictate a lot of tasks directly into Omnifocus from the iPhone. I also use the iPad version to capture tasks. It’s amazing how many unfinished tasks slip right past you if you don’t capture them. Ideas escape you if you don’t trap them in something, too. I pour everything into the Omnifocus Inbox, regardless of what it is.

On Sundays I sit down and plan my week, moving the big tasks directly onto my calendar. Once I move my most important outcomes onto the calendar, I am committed to completing them on that day.

I leave Omnifocus open all of the time, and I have a custom view that shows me tasks that need to be started and completed within the next two weeks. I also have another custom view for all of the tasks that belong to the three major projects I am working on at any given time.

This is how I use my three inboxes and a little peek at my workflow.


What tools do you use to manage all the stuff that pours into your life?

What does your workflow look like?

Do you capture all of your tasks and commitments in one place?

How do you decide what gets worked on and when?



  • Raul Colon

    I have a similar process. Since we moved from a big house to a small apartment I have had to use my NeatReceipts Scanner a bit more where I take anything I am not sure I need to shred into digital format. I had not use the software enough to realize that the OCR function for even documents that I have in digital format is a big plus.

    I use things for the Mac a bit less costly than Omnifocus and I also like that It keeps things pretty simple. It also sync’s to my iPad and iPhone. You gave me an awesome idea on how to create a workflow to unite my things use with my scans.

    I still think I need to use Evernote a bit more :)

    Thanks for the tips!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I want to like Things. I really do. It just doesn’t seem to be as flexible as Omnifocus.

      The OCR thing is amazing. It’s darn helpful when you’re searching.

      • Raul Colon

        I have a few hacks around making it simple.. but then again I have not played around with omnifocus as much!

  • Juan Pablo Garcia

    I Do almost the same, but for tasks I use Daylite. Why? As a sales guy, Daylite allows you to easily join all the incoming info you get and transform it in leads, tasks, opportunities, etc via a plugin for Apple Mail. In that way, I have my “sales guy toolbox” really in sync with other stuff. Omnifocus, Things, etc (I also have Things but abandoned now) don’t nearly have such a powerful environment for sales oriented people. If you had tried Daylite in the past, and dumped it because of bugs (as I’ve did) you should take a look at the current one. (disclaimer, I have no interest in Daylite, I’m only a really happy customer).

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I tried Daylite. It doesn’t work for me. I am so tied to the Apple ecosystem that it’s hard for me to put things other places. I like my Calendar in one place, my tasks in one place, etc.

  • Tom Martin

    Interesting and helpful Anthony. Like you I love OmniFocus… have you plugged it into your email? Send an in-bound email directly to OmniFocus inbox and create a To Do out of it…

    You’re the second person that has talked about the Fujitsu scanner… may have to check into that more… seems like y’all are on to something…

    Thx for sharing.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Yeah, I’m all set on the Omnifocus servers for email. I like it a lot when I am on the iPhone or iPad. It’s an easier and faster capture.

      I do recommend the scanner. Super-fast, super-effective.


  • Bobbi Klein

    I will have to look into the scansnap scanner. I definitely need to get one as the documents and receipts are piling up. I love using evernote as it is easy to organize and synch all of my devices. For the tasks and commitments, I normally use evernote, notes, and my ical to make sure I don’t forget anything. Also, photos work really well too, especially when I am teaching and don’t want to forget something that I have written on the dry erase board.

    Thanks for all of your tips!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I take tons of pictures, Bobbi. You need the ScanSnap, but I can’t tell you how many pictures I take and email into Omnifocus. The iPhone camera really is a killer capture device!

  • Charlie Green

    Thanks Anthony, I love talking about this stuff too.

    I too am a huge fan of both Evernote and Omnifocus. I’m always intending to explore the amazing capabilities of Omnifocus, but even using it to the limited amount I do, it’s pretty great.

    Evernote, however, is a true workhorse and a miracle. I use a Doxie scanner by my computer; I can also scan from the iPhone in a pinch. More often, however, I end up just turning emails and files into .pdf files and sending them with one click to Evernote. I also use Evernote as a fabulous way to send out eBooks or other .pdf documents in response to requests – you can do it with one hand from your smartphone.

    And thanks for the link, but we both know you’re out in front in cool ways to use this stuff!


    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      After you told me about sharing eBooks through Evernote, I set up a notebook called Resources to include all of the files I have to routinely send people. So fast. So easy. So much more efficient when compared to searching your hard drive.

      • Chris Montoya

        I have an ebooks and book abstracts folder. When I digest a book, it has to produce value for me. Right now I’m half way through the Impact Equation with my abstract notes. Then I can email them out quickly if I need to, or access them when I’m writing. Great ideas! I’ve never heard of Omnifocus, but I will check into it. I have experimented with writing in Google Docs and Evernote – and Evernote is my kind of tool for writing. Thanks for sharing!

  • S. Anthony Iannarino

    I like the look of Trello. It’s a Lean Philosophy kind of layout. But I can’t give up my Omnifocus. I have to capture the tasks in one place. Nice project board, though!

    • Samuel Woods

      Yeah, it works great for projects. I have found myself preferring the visual overview/snapshot over Omnifocus’ linear flow. Neither is better than the other, it just comes down to workflow, habit, and what enables you to move swiftly and accurately through your tasks at hand.

      If Omnifocus and Trello could sync, or be integrated, my brain would explode.

  • Paul L’Acosta

    Very helpful and straight to the point Anthony. However, by the end, I couldn’t help but ask: how do you treat magazine articles that land on your inbox? Do you rip them off and then scan them? Or take pics with Evernote app? Just wondering as I currently have a similar system, but you should see how easily the magazines pile up (just like on your pic). Thanks!

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      I’ve started to pull the magazine apart at the seams, pull the pages I want, and scan them to Evernote. (Reading materials do tend to multiply, don’t they?!)