No matter how great your array of inbox apps may be, no one has yet found a way to tame the inbox, that monster that’s ever-hungry for your time and, daresay it, your soul.
Call it the transitive property of email awesome: If it’s good enough for Ben Franklin, it’s good enough for Jeff Weiner. If it’s good enough for Jeff Weiner, we should at least try it: structuring a solid email routine, since email ain’t gonna structure itself.
Weiner’s admirable routine goes like this:
Wake between 5am and 5:30am; spend roughly an hour on my inbox; catch up on the day’s news; have breakfast and play with the kids; workout; go to the office; carve out roughly two hours for buffers each workday; come home; put the girls to bed; have dinner with my wife; and then decompress, typically while watching tv (sporadically cleaning up my inbox via mobile during commercials and the boring parts of whatever we’re watching.)
Veering from this routine leads to inbox, the exec says. This makes sense: Since technology erodes structure, we need to create rituals to create structure–and productivity–in our days.
Vague emails beget clarifying follow-ups, further crowding your inbox, but we can hem in that hydra-headed menace by articulating what we’re looking for in the very first part of the very first message–which is also the secret to prompting prompt replies.
The To: and CC: fields are not synonymous, Weiner warns. The first is for who you expect a response from, the second is for people who only need to have the message to know the appropriate context.
Not appreciating that distinction can fast make a mountain out of a e-molehill, as putting half a dozen people in the To: field will yield at least as many responses–even if you only need one to move forward.
Want to show off email’s destructive capabilities? Weiner has an example: “using email to communicate highly nuanced, sensitive subjects that are bound to generate controversy if not a flat out aggressive response.”
This echoes the advice old-school adman David Ogilvy gave regarding preventing communication stagnation in his self-same office:
Crusade against paper warfare. Encourage your people to air their disagreements face-to-face.
The lesson, then, is to have the right tools for the job: When a task can be cleanly delegated, send a clean email. But if the messaging might get messy, talk it out.