Inbox Zero – My Email Flowchart

email key 1A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article listing the 10 things I do to maintain inbox zero. I talked very briefly about the process I go through when I review the inbox at the end of the day and get it emptied.

I thought it might be helpful to share with you a flowchart of the process so you can visualize what I do.

Email Flowchart

Below is the chart (maybe a little hard to read on your phone so you can download a PDF). To follow the flow start at the top in the green box with incoming email. As you move through the process you see the decisions I take and the actions for each email that comes into my inbox.

Email Flow Chart 20022016

In the “green cloud” call out I refer to my task management system. Basically any action that comes from an email gets added to my task manager and is treated in the same way as any other task. It gets me out from working in the inbox and I can see the full picture of what I have to do without any email clutter in the way.

There’s not actually much to it. The trick is getting good at making those decisions. That comes with practice and is easier if you maintain the consistency by scheduling a daily a review at the end of the day (or whatever suits you).

You can download the image as a PDF file by hitting the button below. You will be asked for your email address to subscribe to the newsletter (if you are already subscribed you won’t be added again) and then taken to the download page. I hope you find it useful!


If you have any questions or comments, add them below.

[ultimatesocial networks=”facebook,twitter,linkedin,pinterest” align=”left” count=”false”]

About Paul Metcalfe

Hello, I'm Paul, the founder of Workweek Zen. When I'm not searching the internet for the best productivity techniques, I'm implementing them. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter


  1. Nishadha on February 29, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    Very interesting flowchart. I noticed that replying immediately is not in the flowchart. Do you add email replies to the task manager or is it just a given in the scenario.

    • Paul Metcalfe on March 1, 2016 at 1:45 pm

      Hi Nishadha. Generally I don’t reply immediately unless it’s obviously important and urgent (an important, time sensitive request from my manager for example). You can see that as the first decision in the flowchart.

      If I’m working through my inbox to empty it I don’t want to get distracted with answering “normal” emails. I just want to get the tasks into my task manager to allow me to work from there.

      I think others would argue that if it takes less than a couple of minutes you should do it there and then but I find that an email that takes a minute to deal with is usually not urgent or important. And, to be honest, I get less and less of those types of emails because of using instant messaging and Skype calls.

Leave a Comment