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:

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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.

Action Step: Clarify response preferences with your co-workers.

Ask your colleagues this question:

“When I get an email from you, but don’t need to respond, would you rather get the HubSpot Sales that I opened the email, or would you like a response such as, ‘Thanks, sounds good.'?"

This accompanies to the preference of your coworkers. Some people prefer a response, while others want less email and are happy with just the Sidekick notification.

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.

Action Step: Use keyboard shortcut for “Mark as Unread.”

The keyboard shortcut for Gmail to "Mark as Unread" is holding Shift, then pressing u

The keyboard shortcut for Outlook to "Mark as Unread" is holding Ctrl, then pressing u.

The keyboard shortcut for Apple Mail to "Mark as Unread" is holding Command and Shift, then pressing u 

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: 

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  Email for about one hour
  Read the days news 
  Have breakfast and play with his kids 
  Workout 
  Go to the office
  Carve out at least two hours for "buffers" between meetings each day
  Come home; put his girls to bed; have dinner with his wife; then relax (typically while watching TV and cleaning out his inbox during the boring parts) 
  Go to sleep 

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.

Action Step: Identify times to batch emails.

Jeff Weiner handles his email first thing in the morning, spending about an hour on his inbox. Cal Newport, MIT post-grad and productivity blogger, checks his email from 1pm to 2pm. I handle 90% of my emails at night.

We are all different. The key is identifying what time you’ll handle email, then sticking to a rigid schedule.

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?

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Our words are impactful. Unless you want to annoy someone through email, let’s double and triple-check what we’re saying.

Action Step: Email trick for never making stupid mistakes again.

Sending an important email? Instead of clicking send, schedule it to yourself for 30 minutes later.

Studies show that short breaks reset our minds, so you’ll look at the email with fresh eyes, as if you’re the one receiving it. This helps identify any silly errors and makes you double-think your email. Great little trick for when we’re sending important emails.

However, if you accidentally hit send, you can undo sent emails in Gmail and Outlook. 

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. 

Action Step: Know when to Reply vs. Reply All vs. BCC.

Granted, it’s confusing. I’m even victim to screwing this up from time to time. However, my favorite resource for figuring out when to use CC or To: or BCC is referencing this handy little flowchart:

reply_replyall_bcc

[Click here to see the full flowchart]

Extra tip: If you’re the one caught in an endless email thread, use the “Mute” button in Gmail to stop getting email notifications from this thread. This is one of my favorite Gmail tricks. 

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. 

Action step: Use subject line abbreviations to explain “no response necessary.” 

Learn common email acronyms to inform your recipient that no response is necessary when you don’t need a reply. Just put NRN into the subject line:

This frees up reply time and inbox space for both parties.

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.”

Action Step: Send a "Lincoln Email."

When Abraham Lincoln was furious at someone, such as when General Meade almost lost The Civil War in 1863, he would write a hateful, nasty letter ... and never send it

It would simply sit in a pile. However, the venting on paper helped Lincoln get out his frustrations, without hurting the other party. Instead, he would give that person encouragement.

As a result he was one of the most successful leaders in American history.

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:

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Originally published Aug 21, 2015 9:28:00 AM, updated July 07 2017

Topics:

Sales Emails