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Work Smart: Disrupt Your Inbox

If you're looking for a quick way to improve productivity for yourself as well as those around you, look no further than your inbox. Most of us take email for granted now, which is why there is an opportunity there to improve and optimize how you communicate. I'll tell you about the techniques used by a variety of different entrepreneurs to optimize their email correspondences.

Here's a cheat sheet:

  • Experiment with three-sentence emails for a better response rate.
  • Start with action-oriented steps, don't leave them at the bottom of the email.
  • Market your subject lines—make them an advertisement to open and read the email.
  • Take disagreements offline.
  • Don't "reply all" unless everyone needs to be involved.
  • Use numbers for reference in back-and-forth correspondence to reduce redundancy and length.


Scott is the author of the national best-selling book Making Ideas Happen and CEO of Behance, a company that develops products and services for creative industries. Behance's products include the Behance Network, the world's leading platform for creative professionals to showcase their work, and The 99%, a think tank and annual conference focused on leadership and execution in the creative world.

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  • Jørn KIppersund

    Brilliant post! I'd like you to specify the last point "use numbers for reference in back-and-forth corrspondance". Exactly how is that done?

  • Mark MacKay

    I worked on a project last year for a large tech company in the Seattle area. You didn't read these emails - you excavated them. There were at least 10 layers for each message and the message evolved while it was being bounced around. So the original author might not realize his or her decision had been changed. Much of the content was CYA stuff and also some blame shifting. Is there a way for the lowly contractor to improve communication from the bottom up?

  • Dan Hinmon

    Another idea: limit each email to 1 topic. I've found if I ask two things (even in 3 sentences!) people tend to answer one and not the other. I love the 3 sentence idea. Forces me to get right to the point. 

  • Donald Malone

    Yep! Great advice.  There is $ in them in-boxes (if its considered/managed properly)

  • Craig Mische

    I wish everyone at my company would read this especially the point about "reply all".

  • Laith Bustani

    Good tips.  I also find some of the ideas in the pretty strong.  Combined with using a number for reference in back-and-forth correspondence to reduce redundancy I think we are looking at what should be considered communication 101's email chapter. 

  • Megann Willson

    Great tips for more effective writing and responding. We also like to do a regular audit of our email subscriptions - how often are you deleting something that was once relevant, but isn't any more?