Because email is one of the predominant methods of professional communication, it’s easy to fall behind and find yourself stuck with a cluttered or intimidatingly full inbox.
Email can still be a major hassle even for people who don’t get all that much of it, so how do major tech founders and CEO’s handle it?
There’s a great thread on Quora where people dish about the email habits of some of tech’s biggest stars. Here’s how they handle email:
Jeff Bezos gets back to people quickly, or not at all.
Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, had the following to say about the Amazon CEO’s email strategy: “Jeff Bezos once told me that he tells everyone that if you email him, you’ll get an answer either within 10 minutes, or never. He’s a funny guy, so this was a joke, but in my experience, only halfway a joke.”
You’ll get the same thing from the Google guys.
User David Shin wrote that when he worked at Google in 2006/2007, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin held a Q&A session, and when someone asked how they manage their email, one of them (he can’t remember which) responded like this:
“When I open up my email, I start at the top and work my way down, and go as far as I feel like. Anything I don’t get to will never be read. Some people end up amazed that they get an email response from a founder of Google in just 5 minutes. Others simply get what they expected (no reply).”
Andrew Mason, the founder of Groupon, is extremely organised and writes thoughtful responses.
Steven Walker, vice president of platform at Quirky said the following about the Groupon founder: “Andrew Mason handles all of his own email. One of the most efficient emailers I’ve ever seen. He uses inbox zero with Omnifocus in a highly efficient manner. In the earlier days we used to try and come up with ways to make this more efficient by setting rules in Mail that filtered emails into different boxes based on how much time they sat. Most were his ideas. Last time I knew his process is it had been simplified to simply starring emails and relying heavily on Omnifocus. He would sometimes email you back in less than a minute. If you ask anyone that has worked with Andrew they will note his thoughtful responses paired with his incredible response times.”
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, has a full-time team of email ninjas working for him.
Michael Chen writes that he sat down with Hsieh for an hour when he was on a class trip in Vegas and this is what he learned: “Tony Hsieh of Zappos has a team of 4-5 full time email handlers I think. Part of the image/Zappos culture is openness though – so I’d guess that some other execs as mentioned in the question might not have the same volume of email from external parties. Fun fact, I think their official titles are Email Ninja.”
Zynga’s founder responds to almost everyone:
William Franceschine wrote the following: “Mark Pincus manages his own email and responds to essentially everybody, often very quickly. The last time I emailed him he replied within five minutes at 7am on a Sunday!”
Martin Sorrell, founder and CEO of advertising company WPP Group, responds in all caps.
Maarten Albarda shares this: “I have always been impressed that Sir Martin Sorrell answers emails himself, and pretty much at any time of the day or night. The answers were short, sometimes all IN CAPS, but they came from him directly and pretty quickly.”
Bill Gates doesn’t get as many emails as you’d expect.
Quora user Vidya Rao links to a Today interview from last year where Gates explains his email situation: “I only get maybe 40 or 50 emails a day, it’s not that much,” he told TODAY.com. “Some of them have huge attachments where people expect you to read a 10-page memo and make comments, and some are just simple acknowledgments of something. So you process some, and get back to others at night. You make sure if you put something off you get back to it later.”
Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through his personal investment company Bezos Expeditions.
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