November 2014: You know that feeling you get when you’re totally caught up on your email and know exactly where everything is? Yeah, neither do most people.
Email remains our collective nemesis. Right when we think we’ve got it handled, here comes more. Do what Richard Branson and these other business gurus do and watch your productivity soar:
Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of Google:
Respond right away, write tight and LIFO. In his new book, Schmidt offers these gems and others — respond quickly, remove unnecessary words before you send, Last In First Out (LIFO, because others may resolve older ones for you), use labels to prioritize and copy yourself on items you need to follow up on so they appear in your inbox. Coincidently, Google is updating Gmail again in its continuing attempt to make the inbox your friend.
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group (more than 100 companies worldwide):
Pick up the phone to solve a problem. Email is great for sharing information but don’t waste your time and everyone else’s by trying to troubleshoot over email. That’s not efficient. Use the right tool for the task and often it’s the phone.
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation:
Decide once and automate. This means looking at each email one time only, if at all. Set your email app’s preferences to do much of the work for you while keeping his classic caveat top of mind: “The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
Mark Cuban, tech entrepreneur, star of Shark Tank and owner of the Dallas Mavericks:
Look for opportunities. Cuban is famous for reading and answering email from people he doesn’t know because he’s always looking for new investments and new ways to combine ideas. He believes you make your own luck, which can start in your inbox. (Do you have a solid business idea to pitch? Here’s how to contact him.)
Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and “Oracle of Omaha”:
Avoid email entirely. “I sent one email in my life. I sent it to Jeff Raikes at Microsoft and it ended up in court in Minneapolis, so I am one for one,” he told Piers Morgan. But he’s Warren. He has staff. For frogs without staff, there are new apps like this.
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