Scott Hanselman

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

February 19, 2018 Comment on this post [16] Posted in Productivity
Sponsored By

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!

Sponsor: Unleash a faster Python Supercharge your applications performance on future forward Intel® platforms with The Intel® Distribution for Python. Available for Windows, Linux, and macOS. Get the Intel® Distribution for Python* Now!

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.

facebook twitter subscribe
About   Newsletter
Hosting By
Hosted in an Azure App Service
February 21, 2018 2:20
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.

February 21, 2018 5:14
Excellent point, Thomas. I should have pointed that out. I actually categorize and color my emails based on Boss.
February 21, 2018 9:12
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.
February 21, 2018 12:08
How do you train clients/customers to do this?
February 21, 2018 12:17
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?
February 21, 2018 16:04
This is very great and brilliant information.
read more
February 21, 2018 16:33
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.
February 21, 2018 18:57
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.
February 22, 2018 0:22
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.
February 22, 2018 18:08
What about emails to distribution lists where you belongs to?
February 24, 2018 3:36
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.
February 25, 2018 10:23
Indeed excellent tip, using it since your first time gave it and it works great for me.

February 26, 2018 2:12
This is a great idea, Thanks Scott. Now if only I could put a similar rule in place for Slack messages!
February 28, 2018 7:50
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.
March 01, 2018 21:42
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? :-)
March 02, 2018 15:01
Thank you i love this is article and my main problem solve this is great tips and helpful article thank you

Comments are closed.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed herein are my own personal opinions and do not represent my employer's view in any way.