Scott Hanselman

One Email Rule - Have a separate Inbox and an Inbox CC to reduce email stress. Guaranteed.

February 19, '18 Comments [16] Posted in Productivity
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Two folders in your email client. One called I've mentioned this tip before but once more for the folks in the back. This email productivity tip is a game-changer for most information workers.

We all struggled with email.

  • Some of us just declare Email Bankruptcy every few months. Ctrl-A, delete, right? They'll send it again.
  • Some of us make detailed and amazing Rube Goldbergian email rules and deliberately file things away into folders we will never open again.
  • Some of us just decide that if an email scrolls off the screen, well, it's gone.

Don't let the psychic weight of 50,000 unread emails give you headaches. Go ahead, declare email bankruptcy - you're already in debt - then try this one email rule.

One Email Rule

Email in your inbox is only for email where you are on the TO: line.

All other emails (BCC'ed or CC'ed) should go into a folder called "Inbox - CC."

That's it.

I just got back from a week away. Look at my email there. 728 emails. Ugh. But just 8 were sent directly to me. Perhaps that's not a realistic scenario for you, sure. Maybe it'd be more like 300 and 400. Or 100 and 600.

Point is, emails you are CC'ed on are FYI (for your information) emails. They aren't Take Action Now emails. Now if they ARE, then you need to take a moment and train your team. Very simple, just reply and say, "oops, I didn't see this immediately because I was cc'ed. If you need me to see something now, please to: me." It'll just take a moment to "train" your coworkers because this is a fundamentally intuitive way to work. They'll say, "oh, make sense. Cool."

Try this out and I guarantee it'll change your workflow. Next, do this. Check your Inbox - CC less often than your Inbox. I check CC'ed email a few times a week, while I may check Inbox a few times a day.

If you like this tip, check out my complete list of Productivity Tips!

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About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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Tuesday, 20 February 2018 22:20:37 UTC
Yep, this is a great tip, I've been using it ever since I read your earlier post. One thing I would add is this: if an email comes from your boss, make sure it ends up in your inbox and doesn't go to the cc inbox.

There are many times when your boss will cc your team, or reply to a thread where you are cc'd. I find it valuable to make sure I am aware of any conversation they are having where I am in the group of listeners.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018 01:14:52 UTC
Excellent point, Thomas. I should have pointed that out. I actually categorize and color my emails based on Boss.
Scott Hanselman
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 05:12:10 UTC
I had this rule on couple years back until somebody figured out that I put emails where I was cc'ed into another inbox and since then, it's been back to square one for me. Also, some people seem like they do not have the courtesy to put appropriate people into the to: and cc: fields but put everyone into the to: field instead.
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 08:08:30 UTC
How do you train clients/customers to do this?
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 08:17:59 UTC
I like the idea! However, I couldn't find a way to setup a server-side rule for that in Outlook / OWA.
Would this be possible somehow?
Frank Wilhelm Aberknall
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 12:04:27 UTC
This is very great and brilliant information.
read more
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 12:33:02 UTC
I live by this, though I have adapted it a little for my personal needs. I also tell people to have a low "crap" threshold when it comes to email. Don't be shy about marking email as junk and blocking senders. Working at University, we got a lot of emails from our Dean and from our University. All those emails go into a "low priority" folder. Your time is important. Just make so you see only the emails that you need.
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 14:57:10 UTC
The hardest part of this trick is training people to put you in the CC line. I get 200 emails a day where I am in the To: line and shouldn't be.
Wednesday, 21 February 2018 20:22:45 UTC
Sadly, this would not help much for me. The vast majority of my emails are system generated, and they all helpfully include me on the to field.

I get thousands of emails from tools like TFS, Jira, Confluence, Remedy.. not to mention all the trade show, and vendor emails that all seem to come directly to me.

Oh well.
Thursday, 22 February 2018 14:08:44 UTC
What about emails to distribution lists where you belongs to?
Arnab Roy Chowdhury
Friday, 23 February 2018 23:36:14 UTC
To take this up a level - I do this, and look at any email in my inbox that's not actionable as a failure and cause for more filtering. So all those system generated alerts? That's a filter on from address. Mailing lists? Look for the word "unsubscribe" and file it in a separate folder. I have a rule called "VIP" that puts emails from specific people directly to the inbox.
Sunday, 25 February 2018 06:23:34 UTC
Indeed excellent tip, using it since your first time gave it and it works great for me.

Reuven Abliyev
Sunday, 25 February 2018 22:12:08 UTC
This is a great idea, Thanks Scott. Now if only I could put a similar rule in place for Slack messages!
Wednesday, 28 February 2018 03:50:08 UTC
I have a similar system. I just wish Outlook had a way to specify from my management chain instead of having to specify each person I want to include.
Chris Patterson
Thursday, 01 March 2018 17:42:33 UTC
Implemented this and also followed your suggestion for Rescue Me from your productivity talk. (Great talk, by the way, immensely helpful.) You've got to send Rescue Me a note tough. It defaults to Very Distracting! What? :-)
Friday, 02 March 2018 11:01:39 UTC
Thank you i love this is article and my main problem solve this is great tips and helpful article thank you
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.