In 2014, Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, was recognized among the top 10 CEOs at U.S. tech companies.
He manages over 4,300 employees in 26 cities around the world at LinkedIn. Before that, he managed 3,000 employees at Yahoo! from 2001 to 2008.
In other words, he’s been getting a lot of emails for a very long time. And he’s developed a system for handling his inbox, which we call the Seven Laws of Email.According to Weiner, these email practices are no joke. They have significantly impacted his productivity:
Since adopting his Seven Laws of Email into my daily routine (especially the first law), I’ve noticed my inbox traffic has been reduced by roughly 20-30%.
Speaking of, here’s the first law of Jeff Weiner’s inbox management system:
Law I - To receive less email, send less email.
According to Weiner:
As ridiculously simple as it sounds for such a pervasive problem, I’ve found this to be the golden rule of email management: Send less of it."
He discovered the power of “sending less” when two co-workers left a previous company he was at. He realized after they left, his inbox traffic dropped by 20-30%.
Not only did they send a lot of emails, but for every email they sent, Jeff responded, resulting in more email. It was a vicious cycle. So when they left, he decided to try something different:
I decided to conduct an experiment where I wouldn’t write an email unless absolutely necessary. End result: Materially fewer email and far more navigable inbox. I’ve tried to stick to the same rule ever since."
If you want less email, send less email. It’s painfully and obviously simple, often overlooked, but it works.
Law II - “Mark as unread” to create inbox to-do list.
According to Weiner, the “Mark as unread” has fundamentally changed the way he works:
Having the ability to mark an email unread enables me to quickly glance through my inbox, respond to things that are the most time pressing, delete the things that are irrelevant, and mark unread those items I’d like to return to once I have time."
Weiner says this helps in two huge ways:
1. It alleviates the pressure, feeling like he has to respond now.
2. It helps important messages not get lost in the looming avalanche of incoming messages."
By marking important emails as unread, he uses his bucket of unread emails (which he tries to get through before every night) as his email to-do list.
Law III: Establish a daily routine to avoid inbox overload
Akin to Benjamin Franklin’s daily routine, Jeff Weiner believes in the power of routines. Whenever he skips his routine, things start getting crazy:
Turns out, my inbox is very manageable when I stick to this schedule. However, every time I tried experimenting with even the slightest change to this routine, travel for more than a few days at a time, or have a particularly hectic couple of days back-to-back, it never ceases to amazing me how quickly cleaning up my inbox feels like [it never ends]."
His daily routine looks like this:
Creating a daily routine and sticking closely to it reduces the “compound effect” of emails from the previous days stacking upon each other, creating a stressful and overwhelming inbox.
Law IV: Be precise with your words to avoid multiple emails.
The worst email is an email you don’t understand. This causes you to send another email, asking for clarification, which then returns yet another email to your inbox … when only one was needed.
Jeff Weiner emphasizes the power of clarity in emails:
Words matter. Choose them carefully in email to avoid ambiguity and misinterpretation. The more precise you are upfront, the less likely you’ll see subsequent emails generating confusion and asking follow up questions seeking additional clarify — and the more you and your team will be able to focus on the work at hand."
By the way, did you know the #1 most common complaint from cold emails is bad grammar?
Our words are impactful. Unless you want to annoy someone through email, let’s double and triple-check what we’re saying.
Law V: Know when to CC/BCC/To the recipients.
One of Jeff Weiner’s biggest pet peeves is CCing someone when they should be in the To: field, and vice versa:
It seems like for many people,e the To: and Cc: fields in email have become largely synonymous. They’re not. Use them to draw a clear distinction between who the email is being sent and from whom you expect a response from (the To: field); and who is being copied so they have appropriate context (CC:)."
Put an email in the To: field who doesn’t need to respond, and they’ll respond. But someone in the CC field who you expect a response, and they don’t, then you have to send another email.
Law VI: Acknowledge receipt of email.
Jeff Weiner says if you get an email (addressed to you in the To: line), you should acknowledge receipt of the email. Yet he encourages using as few words as possible such as, “Thanks,” “Got it,” “Makes sense,” etc.
He explains this helps in two ways:
If you don’t respond, they’ll have no idea whether or not they’ve been heard. Not only will this create worry about whether or not you received it, it is likely to generate another email with fundamentally the same content, but this time a number of additional people in the To: line in the hopes they’ll respond given you didn’t. The more people addressed, the more crowded your inbox is likely to become."
Another way to prove receipt of an email is using an email tracking program like HubSpot Sales to automatically see when someone opens an important email.
Law VII: Controversial conversations belong in person, not email.
Finally, if you have a controversial, sensitive, or heated topic to discuss, Weiner advices that you do not discuss it over email. Discuss it face-to-face:
If you find yourself in the throes of what is clearing becoming an antagonistic discussion online, do yourself a favor: Stop. Then either pick up the phone or head over to the person’s office to have the discussion in person. Face-to-face interaction will reintroduce all of the important sub-text that will be completely lost in email and help prevent unnecessary arguments or douse heated flame wars before they begin."
A former colleague of Weiner’s describes this dynamic as “going strong on the keyboard.”
Summary: The “7 Laws of Email” According to LinkedIn’s CEO
As a quick summary, here are the Seven Laws of Email according to Jeff Weiner:
Originally published Aug 21, 2015 9:28:00 AM, updated July 07 2017