Get a Grip on Your Overflowing Email InboxJeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, views his email inbox as the “central hub of my workflow.” It’s how he communicates and exchanges information “with our 4,300+ employees operating in 26 cities around the world.”

While admitting he hasn’t always been “a fan of it,” Weiner has developed a system “to manage my inbox effectively and ensure it’s not managing me.”

In this post, he outlines some practical email guidelines we can all benefit from:

Want Less Email? Send Less Email

This is Weiner’s “golden rule of email management.” Some time ago he decided he wouldn’t write an email unless he absolutely had to. “End result: Materially fewer emails and a far more navigable inbox.” He’s tried to live by this rule ever since.

Use Your “Mark as Unread”Option

The use of this one simple command, Weiner says, “has fundamentally changed the way I work.” Why? Because by marking an email unread, you have the option to:

  • Respond to whatever is most pressing at the time
  • Delete irrelevant messages
  • Mark items you intend to return to later

Weiner’s daily goal is to “end each day with as few items marked unread as possible.” (Actually, his goal is to have none unread.) Whatever he can’t get to that day is the first thing he looks at the following morning.

Use Words Precisely

The words you use in your messages may provoke more responses than you want. Anything that’s ambiguous or prone to misinterpretation can cause confusion at the receiving end—and generate a response asking for clarification. “Words matter,” Weiner states unequivocally. “Choose them carefully.”

Think About Who You Mark as “Recipient”

Many people seem to regard the To: and Cc: fields as one and the same thing. “They’re not,” Weiner says. There are the recipients from whom you expect a response (the To: field) and those who are copied “so they have the appropriate context” (Cc:).

If, for example, you put six people in the To: line, you may end up with six different email responses (and possibly six new email threads), when only one or two recipients really need to respond at all.

Acknowledge You’ve Received an Email Message

Think about the times you’ve sent out an “urgent” or “important” message and heard nothing back at all. Like most people, you probably followed up with another email. A lot of unnecessary back-and-forth exchanges can be eliminated if you “take the time to acknowledge you’ve received it.” All this takes is a quick “Thanks” or “Got it.”

As Weiner says, “This lets the sender know you received the message, don’t need any additional information or context, and thus they can check it off their list.

Keep the Drama Offline

Weiner finds it constantly amazing what people choose to say when an email message triggers an emotional response. They immediately respond using words “they would never choose to use when in the presence of the same audience.”

If you find yourself in such a situation, he says, “do yourself a favor: Stop.” Either make a call or stop by the other person’s office and address the issue in person. This form of human contact “will reintroduce all of the important subtext” that’s lost in email and helps eliminate unwanted drama.

If email is one of your indispensable resources, try following these simple guidelines to clear some clutter from your life.

How do you address email inbox overflow?