Hack Your Friendships…

…networking is so 2018.

I have a strategy for keeping my relationships strong with the people I don’t see very often. I guess you could call it networking, but I hate that phrase. I use Trello, but it doesn’t really matter what tool you use for the following friendship hack.

I have about 12–16 key people in my life that I just want to keep in regular contact with; not with any particular purpose. Most of them have given me business or speaking opportunities, but it’s really just that they’re interesting people. I always learn something when I speak to them.

It’s really, really simple in Trello because I just set a due date of, say, 60 days from now on each contact’s card. When we speak, I’ll put notes in there on Trello about what we talked about. It’s also really easy to do follow-ups. I can tag someone on my team and say, “Hey, I talked to this person, please send them a copy of my book.” Then, I have a record of that entire exchange.

As you know, I’m very, very much about the external brain. It’s really easy to get lazy and just keep all of your contacts and conversations in your head. But I think that it’s very helpful and way more effective if you get it out of your head, so you not only know what you and the person talked about, but what action you took afterward.

With more and more people using calendly or scheduling software in general, I realized that there are a lot of people who feel like that’s not a personal enough touch. But I think calendly is a wonderful gift you can give people. You tell them, “You can book at any time that’s convenient for you.” Of course, when they get in there, they’re going to see the parameters that make sense to you so you’re actually controlling it. I think that this old-school notion that you have to have a secretary like Miss Moneypenny who’s personally going back and forth to set a time with someone is super antiquated.

These days, my contacts send me a calendly link and I started saving them on their cards in Trello. So when the due date comes up, I go to the Trello card. I see what the last conversation was, I pull up the calendly link and I book it, which saves a ton of back and forth. So I have a calendar full of really interesting calls and conversations with people whose counsel I trust and whose company I want to keep invigorated.

I used to talk about how the average meeting takes eight emails to set up and now calendly made it possible to do in one step. Now I can make it zero steps really as I’ve taken control of my regularly scheduled contact with these people. Everybody benefits. So there’s my little relationship management hack that you can all use and set up in about 10 minutes. And I hope you do. Make it an effective week.

Is it Cereal First or Milk First?

There are two kinds of people in the world (and in my house as well.)There’s the type of person who pours the milk on the cereal and the person who puts cereal over the milk. It’s two actions that lead to the same result, regardless of the order.

Now, you might not think it matters, but it does, to everybody, especially me. It made me think about processes in general, as I was watching my children all do it the wrong way this morning.

Milk first, I mean really.

We all have methods to the way we do things. We’ve never questioned them because it’s the way we’ve always done them. But there’s always a reason. So when you explain processes to people, it’s so important to show the thinking, show “the why.”

The only way to do that is to have someone else interpret it. That’s why we created the POS system. (Process Optimization System).

Here’s the infographic.

As is usually the case, implementing this process on process will lead to a bigger question. Because, aside from the cereal thing, I think the world is really divided into two distinct groups of people. — those who engage and those who disengage. The disengagers are the folks who retreat into ”We’ve always done it this way.” The Engagers are those who say, “Well I never looked at it like that.”

I think that we go through seasons where those things might change. We may be hard-wired a certain way, but life gives us endless opportunities to see things from another perspective. So, if you look at the activities in your day, try to think how can you put the activity that you’re doing into one of those two boxes. The salient part of the questioning is that it might not be what you think it is. It’s why it’s such a good exercise.

When I completely delegate something to one of my teammates, some people would that’s disengaging, but maybe not. When I allow myself to take 72 hours away from my phone, it may look like disengaging, but is it? It’s like the old Buddhist story about the farmer.

There was a Chinese farmer whose wild stallion ran off one day. All the neighbors gathered around saying “Very bad luck.” The Chinese farmer said, “bad luck, good luck, who knows?” A few days later the stallion returned with a herd of wild horses. The neighbors gathered around saying “Very good luck.” “Bad luck, good luck, who knows,” said the farmer. A week later the farmer’s son was trying to break in one of the horses and was thrown from the horse and broke his leg. The neighbors gathered and said “Very bad luck.” “Bad luck, good luck, who knows,” said the farmer. Several weeks later the Chinese army came to the town looking for able-bodied youth to join the army and fight. When the soldiers came to the farmer’s house and saw the boy’s broken leg, they left him alone and moved on. The neighbors gathered saying “Very good luck.” “Bad luck, good luck, who knows? answered the farmer”

It’s like all the precepts of The Replaceable Founder methodology, non-attachment does not mean disengaged, it means letting things be. Then and only then can we make informed decisions about the next step. How we choose to proceed depends on our wiring, and there are many paths to the same destination. My rallying call for you is to actively look for ways to disengage, so you can engage in the things you love.

And for goodness sake, the cereal goes in first, the milk follows.

You don’t need a CRM

As a productivity expert, the question I get most often is…

What is the best CRM?

To which I always respond…

Why do you need a CRM?

I’ve never been a fan of the all-in-one CRM tools that have tons of features you’ll pay for but never use and fulfill 80% of your needs and still don’t move the needle for your business. Most people say they need a CRM because all of their competitors have one, because their sales team is overwhelmed, or because they heard a sales pitch about a tool that was going to 10x their business (who doesn’t want their business to be multiplied by 10?)

So, why do you need a CRM? You want to increase sales, make customers happier, and make things easier for your team, right? I want to show you how you can build your own super-powered CRM that will serve your needs and no one else’s, will cost next to nothing, and work the way you work.

I’ve built a system that works so well that people often question whether or not they are talking to a human being. Yes, you read that correctly. it’s not that the bot is so good they think it’s human, it’s that the human is so good they think it’s a machine.

When I personally communicate with someone over email or SMS, they will often say “Is this really Ari, or is it a bot or a virtual assistant?” I see this as a massive compliment because we are able to communicate with people as if we have supercomputers in an earpiece, coaching us on exactly what to say next in a way that a mere human never could. When I tell them it’s really me and give proof (such as telling them the time and weather where I am and what I’m doing) the conversation is taken to an entirely new level and more often than not, leads to long-term relationship (what some might refer to as a “close” but the transaction is less important to me than the experience)

The components of a CRM

This incredible clip art from a Wikipedia article on Customer Relationship Management software lays it out pretty clearly. We’re taking the sum of all interactions we have with leads (customers who don’t know they will be your customer yet) and customers (customers who know that they are customers). Don’t take my parenthetical sarcasm to mean I’m not serious. It’s important to consider the emotional state of the individual in your CRM ecosphere as you communicate with someone. If someone is a lead you need to create context and relevance around the conversations you have with them in order to move them closer and closer to the point of trusting you enough to transfer your feelings to them.

As Zig Ziglar said, sales is just a transfer of feelings. You are excited about your product and service and you want them to feel that too so they become a customer. Someone who has become a customer has completely different expectations around the interaction they want to have with you.

For a lead/customer, the CRM needs to make them feel understood. My friend Joe Polish often says “People don’t buy from you because they understand you, they buy from you because they feel understood.” For a customer, a CRM should make them feel like they are your only customer.

For your team, a CRM should be Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, whispering in her bosses ear as each person at the cocktail party approaches her “That’s the daughter of the Prime Minister of France, Coco, that last time you saw her was at the Vogue Christmas Party two years ago, she had just gotten back from a vacation in St. Barths and was writing a novel” at which point the boss gives Coco and air kiss and asks how her book turned out. This creates instant connection and context for further conversation.

So let’s break down the complements of the perfect CRM into each piece you need, but first…

We interrupt this broadcast for an important message about all-in-one software tools

I’ve written before about the Rube Goldberg setup I prefer to have in my business and the businesses of those I coach because it enables me to see the components when they work, and more importantly when they don’t. I’m able to swap out the email marketing component of my setup because I’ve found a cheaper, better alternative without the massive headache of completely switching systems, dealing with my data being held hostage by a proprietary system, or fighting with the mental fallacy of the gamblers dilemma, thinking that the expensive system will work if I just keep paying for it.

At the end of the day, I know I can build a better mousetrap, and so can you.

Thank you for observing this important announcement

So the three main phases of the CRM cycle are communications, data processing/analysis, and enriching the knowledge of team members.


How do you communicate, in general? Email, email marketing (newsletters, etc…), SMS, live chat, direct mail, online and offline ads, and phone calls should cover it for most of you. We should see our outbound communication as a means to get someone to raise their hand. That’s all I want, just raise your hand so I can see you in the crowd. Every time I give a talk somewhere, I like to ask questions and get people to raise their hands. The question means nothing, nor does that answer, what matters is that they raise their hands. You’ll never get the whole room to raise their hand, it doesn’t happen. You could have Tony Robbins in a room and he could ask “How many of you are humans?” And you’ll still only get a portion of the room raising their hands. The point of getting people to raise their hands is to elevate certain people in the crowd from a “No Star” prospect to a “One Star Prospect.” Dean Jackson teaches that a “Five Star Prospect” is someone who is:

  • Willing to Engage
  • Friendly and Cooperative
  • Knows What They Want
  • Knows When They Want It
  • Knows They Want It From You

So if we can get people to raise their hand we have immediately begun to segment people and once we do that, the conversation can evolve. All of our communications to “No Star Prospects” should contain a question. If you visit our website, the live chat will popup and ask “Are you interested in becoming more replaceable?” I’ve only seen someone actually say no once (and if you are reading this article, I have to meet you so you can be studied and cloned). Usually someone answers yes and now they are at level one. If I write back and they say someone that shows a genuine struggle with overwhelm and an openness to share information, now they are a “Two Star Prospect” and the conversation evolves further. I never consider any of these conversations a “sales conversation” until we’ve gotten to four stars because up until that point, it’s just a conversation, an education, hopefully for both parties.

In every communication channel, I simply want to learn more about the person so that if we do get to the point if discussing working together, I can deliver information in way that is efficient and relevant.

You can use any email provider you want for the outgoing stuff, Mailchimp, ConvertKit, MailJet, etc….I don’t care, because all those do is get people to raise their hands. Once they do, it definitely helps to have a tool that can not only consolidate communications but also spread the load across your team so no one, including the boss, can become a bottleneck in the sales process. My favorite tool for this is which can combine multiple business email address (think or help@company or, live chat on your website, Facebook messenger for your business page, Twitter DM, and even text messages and phone calls (this requires an add on called Toky).

Intercom immediately starts to build a profile on the person based on their location, their email address or phone number (if they input it), and can pull relevant history on them including past conversations with team members, the last page on your website that they visited, their last charge through Stripe if they are already a customer, even the last time they booked a call with you through Calendly, or attended a webinar through Crowdcast for example. This shows up on the right hand side of the screen as your communicating with them. This information is shared with any team member that engages that person and can even inform automated bots if you really need to ramp up communications quickly. In addition Intercom can automate messages based on someone meeting one or several criteria. So if someone visits your site from Germany and they haven’t been to your site in two months, you could have a pop up informing them that you now have team members who speak German. If someone is a customer and they have been with you for 6 months you can automatically text them to thank them for the loyalty. Both scenarios merely open the door to another possible conversation, further evolving the relationship. Every interaction, in every channel, is captured and “paper clipped” to the persons dossier to provide that context later on.

Data Processing and Analysis

The communications system is kind of like a magician’s hat. Sometimes you flip it over and there’s nothing in it. You tap on the top, spin it around a couple times and you’re met with…absolutely nothing. Other times you reach in and pull out a bunny. If you’re really good, you reach in again and pull out a second bunny and maybe a third. But how do we keep track of the bunnies when they aren’t in the hat, since they obviously still exist. That’s where the data holding tank comes into play.

My choice for this phase of your CRM mastery is Trello. Trello is amazing for 90% of cases. If you’ve got massive amounts of leads and customers (I’m talking hundreds or thousands) then you would want something better at handling structured data, and my pick for that would be Airtable .

In Trello I create a dead simple pipeline with just a few phase:

  • New Opportunity
  • Engaging and Qualifying
  • Closing
  • Closed
  • Cold

Every new opportunity gets added as a card to the first list. This can happen manually or through an automation. If I meet someone at an event and they give me their card, I’ll take a picture and make a card in the first list. If our machine learning algorithm (more about that here) picks someone out of the crowd or they book a free info call through Calendly, a card is automatically created. When a card is created, it will automatically include the source and any other information we can pull either from their existing profile in Intercom or from publicly available sources like Clearbit and will automatically add a due date for three days later to make sure someone follows up.

Then we reach out through the most appropriate means, given our initial contact. If it’s in person I like to go with SMS. If it’s email we stick to email. I strongly dislike when companies force you to “switch channels” in order to communicate. If you ever email a company to cancel a service and they tell you that you have to schedule a phone call to discuss closing your account (RingCentral shamefully does this and it’s why I will never use or recommend them) just call your credit company and deny any further charges.

If they respond, I just ask more questions about their business and their challenge. I’m genuinely interested, because it’s one of the ways I learn, improve and am more able to help people.

The questions you ask are more important than anything you will ever tell the person. Questions show that you are listening, that you understand them, and that you understand the problem. When you are able to articulate someones problem better than they can, the human brain will automatically associate you with the solution.

Once their is a two way dialogue, their Trello card gets moved to the Engaging and Qualifying list and a due date gets added for one week later, unless the person requested a specific date for follow up, then we enter it manually. All the while, our interactions continue to be appended to the card and their Intercom profile. If I have an interaction outside our normal systems, such as personal SMSto my phone, I will literally screenshot the conversation and add it to the card.

Once they have said that they want to be part of one of our programs, they move to Closing and follow up is set for a day later.

Once the Stripe card comes through, that triggers another Zapier automation to find the card and move them to Closed.

I keep a Cold list for people who are unresponsive or not interested and that adds a 45 day follow up, just in case we want to give one more try down the line. If the lead magically revives we move the card back to the second list.

Informing the Team

Each list is sorted by due date so and Trello has a calendar view which syncs with our team Google calendar so on any given day, any member of our team knows exactly who to contact, which channel to do it through, and what to say. The Trello integration with Intercom means the persons history is right there on the card for anyone to see.

We have a metric at Less Doing called “Time to Departure” which is the number of day’s notice you would have to give your team before you could go on vacation. For many companies the number is as high as 60 days. At Less Doing, it’s zero. I could start a conversation with someone about our Replaceable Founder Course, put their card in the second list, and walk out the door to a totally disconnected vacation. Two days later, someone on my team would see the follow up in the calendar, check the card and see that there was a few texts back and forth with the person, or maybe a recording of a call we had through Toky. That team member can get the context and reach out to the person, with the simple goal of furthering the conversation.

Choose your own adventure

I always think about the customer journey in my own company and others with whom I interact. You can always improve it, make it more personal, and answer questions before people even knew they had them.

We do something unique in our coaching business, we don’t offer a contract. We don’t lock people into a year or even a quarter. I always tell people that they should remain a part of our program for as long as they find it valuable. It doesn’t lock either of us into a relationship that’s not serving both of us, and keeps my team and me on our toes to continue to provide unquestionable value, month after month. We believe in what we do so strongly that I want to remind people of their option to cancel, BEFORE we bill them each month. There are plenty of ways to email someone when they make a purchase but preempting one requires some thought. Stripe won’t email someone to let them know they will be charged, nor will your email marketing tool.

So I tried to visualize who the person is that should get that email. They should be part of one of our programs, they should have been billed 25 days prior, and as of today their status should be consider active. These are all parameters I was able to set in Intercom and within a few minutes I had built the thing I wanted without contacting my CRM technician or buying some expensive add on software.

Our CRM includes about 15 different tools, all tied together through various automations (I didn’t even mention the automated text messages, voicemails, postcards, and gifts that we can integrate) and whether or not you copy what we do (you’re encouraged to!), my hope is that you can see how you can have the exact system you want, and achieve the results you need, with a little bit of tinkering, noodling, and obsessing.

How To Conquer Your Overwhelming Email Inbox

Caveat: It’s Not About Your Email

Email overwhelms and irritates most of us, and our solutions to out-of-control inboxes are typically not helpful. Most people either obsess over it, use it sporadically, or avoid it entirely, all of which defeat email’s purpose as a communication tool.

We need a better solution.

Maybe you never look at it, just check it every so often and can’t be bothered to answer most queries. Or you don’t open it at all and watch the number go up and up on your phone’s icon. If you do either of these, there’s a problem.

Part of the problem is that we were never given any training on email. We were just given an email address and no operating instructions. Can you imagine the result of giving people the keys to a car, without telling them how it works or how to drive responsibly? We’d all end up driving on the wrong side of the road and honking at green lights.

That’s what we are doing with email. As a result, most people use it incorrectly, escalating our frustration in an already overburdened work day.

I’m going to offer you a user manual of sorts — a concrete set of tools and rules, combined with some basic productivity principles, that can end your fraught relationship with email.

Not only that, but by honing the skills that allow you to get your email under control, you’ll also be honing your overall productivity and decision-making in a way that will have cascading benefits on your work and personal life.

Mastering Email Means Mastering Decision-Making

The first thing I usually tell people who want to improve email management is, “You don’t have an email problem; you have a decision-making problem.”

Now, this response is not meant as a criticism, it’s meant to illustrate the fact that, more often than not, we don’t recognize email for what it is — a foundational communication tool that allows us to practice delegation. We can use it to get better at our work and what we do day to day (outside of email), rather than thinking it has us tethered to it with no end in sight.

The positive message I have for you is this: Once you are able to manage your email, you can manage anything.

Look, here’s the truth, managing a chaotic email inbox is not easy. There are a lot of successful people who either never manage their email or just don’t have it at all. John Paul DeJoria is the founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and the premium tequila brand, Patron, among other ventures. He’s worth $4 billion and the man has never had an email address or owned a computer. He says he would be so inundated, he would never get any work done! DeJoria does all of his business in person or on the phone, and his philosophy is to “pay attention to the vital few and ignore the trivial many.” I’d say that ideology has worked out pretty nicely for him.

There are also people whose assistants handle all their email and that’s fine too. But if you are trying to manage your email and you are not doing it, it can be symptomatic of larger decision-making and productivity issues.

Productivity is difficult to master in today’s digital age.

Humans have not biologically evolved quickly enough to keep up with our technological advances in communication. It’s unrealistic to think we should be able to manage the constant barrage of information and stimuli that come at us in any given day. Our brains can’t process all of the stuff coming in, so they shut down in response.

Most of the incredible communication tools we have at our disposal — cell phones, instant messaging, social media platforms — have become leashes and obligations, rather than the tools they are intended to be.

Email is considered by many to be a drag, but it’s really the ultimate paradigm shift in communication, especially when it comes to work and business. When used properly, it is one of the greatest productivity tools ever invented. There’s no other communication resource available that is completely free, enables you to be instantly in touch with people around the globe, share images and documents, and file it all. And yet, look at how much of a distraction and a hindrance it is to so many people!

One big reason is that technology tends to amplify individuals’ and institutions’ tendencies. If you have good habits, technology can make them better. If you have bad habits, it will intensify those habits.

In other words, The way we do anything is the way we do everything.

So let’s take a look at how you manage, or don’t manage your email. You’ll find the process can enable you to get better at delegation and sharpen your ability to categorize and prioritize.

To Manage Your Email, You Have 3 Options

I’ve developed a system for email management that I call “Inbox Zero.” But it’s actually a matrix for managing decisions in general. All you have to remember is a few words that start with “D.”




The key to this matrix is understanding that those are the only three decisions you should ever have to make in any situation. Either it’s a no, do it now, or you defer it to a more effective time. It’s a way of making decisions that apply to anything we do, whether it’s somebody asking you to work on a new project, or to enter into a new agreement, or to decide where to go for lunch. We don’t have to contemplate 50 options every time, because there are only three.

Delete: Discard emails that have been dealt with and are no longer relevant. And by delete, I mean archive, not send to the trash. Archived items are still searchable, just not seen.

Do: These are items that need to, and can be, processed immediately (ideally five minutes or less). Here are some examples of emails that fall under “do”:

● Quick questions

● Time-sensitive business emails

● Scheduling emails

● Family emails

“Do” also includes emails that can be delegated to others.

Defer: Last but not least, “defer” emails are those that require action, but now is not the right time. More extensive projects and more extended responses usually fall into this category. offers an excellent service that allows you to send emails to yourself at a later date.

Multitasking is a Myth: You Can Only Do One Thing at a Time

So that’s the first part of deconstructing our relationship with email. It’s a lot to take in, but I’d like you to simply try to embrace the odd notion that your limited number of options is really a form of liberation.

Next comes the idea that it’s cognitively impossible to achieve anything productive when you can’t commit to a clear course of action.

We are scientifically designed to focus on one thing at a time. Therefore multitasking is not an activity the human brain is capable of handling. The neurological term for multitasking is “context switching.” When we attempt to multitask we actually switch back and forth between tasks so quickly, we physically exhaust our brains.

People have tried to “game the system” by combining low focus activities with high focus activities to train the brain to be better at context switching, like checking your emails while combing through a spreadsheet. Interestingly, women are marginally (2%–3%) better at context switching than men, but generally speaking, switching back and forth between tasks is mentally exhausting.

This is why running on a treadmill tends to be more tiring than running outside. A treadmill offers more stimuli to keep track of: calories burned, time, heart rate, incline and a variety of other information blinking and beeping at you. It’s a lot to take in when you’re trying to blow off some steam!

Once you realize that true multitasking is a myth, you can work on focusing on one thing at a time, which will increase your productivity. In the next section I will discuss a tried-and-true productivity principle that can help you manage your emails and also your life.

Applying the 80/20 Rule to Manage Your Email Inbox

As I mentioned earlier in this article, it’s also crucial to look at your email management issue as just a symptom of a larger productivity problem. There are plenty of things you can throw at it, but it’s like taking Advil because your knee hurts…again. Yes, you will feel better, but you won’t be dealing with the underlying issue of a complete lack of connective tissue. You need to get that fixed, not just hide the symptoms.

So now that you have a basic foundation for organizing your emails, I want to share with you my version of the 80/20 rule. I know, you’ve probably heard a lot about the 80/20 rule. By know it’s practically gospel in the startup and productivity world. But there’s a good reason for that.

The 80/20 Rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, promotes identifying the things in your life that give you the most bang for your buck. Pareto was an Italian economist and an avid gardener. The story goes that he was surveying his plants one day and noticed that 20% of his pea plants produced 80% of the peas.

He was enchanted by this concept and scratched a little further to discover a similar phenomenon occurred within the economy: 80% of the land was owned by 20% of the population. He surveyed other countries as well and found a similar ratio applied. The take home is that most things in life are not distributed evenly, and this knowledge can be applied in a number of ways.

The 80/20 Rule fits into my Optimize, Automate, and Outsource Methodology because I believe that 20% of your effort and resources should be devoted to work, while the other 80% should be allocated toward rest, relaxation, and personal development. In that vein, I spend 80% of my time with my family, exercising, eating, reading, sleeping or learning. Because I’ve made the choice to spend my time this way, I’m forced to figure out ways to be ultra-productive when I am working. It requires that I look carefully at what I’m doing, then what are the things that could be done better and faster by an automation or another human?

Using the Pareto Principle to Get to Inbox Zero

If you apply this principle to your email inbox, you could easily eliminate around 60%-75% of the volume, as these emails are likely not contributing to your greatest goals. How do you implement this?

One example is to set a filter to file every email that contains the word “unsubscribe” into an “optional” folder. That way, all of those emails — which will include any newsletters or automated messages — will immediately bypass your inbox, thereby greatly reducing the feeling of overwhelm.

You can create any number of other filters that will snag any emails you know are only optional to deal with. The lower number of unopened emails taunting you allows you to focus on the messages that are of the highest importance.

This practice differs from using something like SaneBoxwhich is an email management software program that integrates with IMAP and Exchange Web Services (EWS) email accounts. SaneBox’s primary function is to filter messages that it algorithmically deems unimportant into a folder for later processing. But the filter creates two different buckets in which you operate differently. So, in essence, you now have two piles of unopened mail to sort through. This can still contribute to feelings of overwhelm because you haven’t prioritized the emails.

Your inbox is a place for work, for productivity, and for getting things done. Using the Pareto Principle, the optional folder holds emails that do not require your immediate attention, allowing you to focus on the emails that are most important — the ones driving your results. The beauty of this system is that just knowing all of the emails in your optional folder are optional, you can fly through them much faster when you’re ready to give them your attention.

So when I look at my inbox, I can quickly determine first: what I can simply discard; what I can deal with by delegating to one of my team members; and what items I’m going to defer to another time, when I can give the situation more of my attention. No other choices, no other options. Delete, Do, Defer.

We discussed Inbox Zero earlier in this article, but here is what the full process may look like when taking into account the Pareto principle:

  1. Every time you sign in, process your email according to the 3Ds (Delete, Do, Defer).
  2. Consolidate your current folders. You don’t need more than an inbox and an optional folder.
  3. Create an optional folder by filtering anything with the word “unsubscribe.” This separates the essential from the optional. This way, you are starting with a more streamlined version of your inbox (Thanks Pareto!).
  4. Archive anything older than 14 days. You probably don’t need it anymore.
  5. Attend to the emails that need to/can be processed immediately (ideally 5 minutes or less).

6. Set up a scheduling tool like Calendly and a follow-up tool like or if your email tool doesn’t have these functions built in. This will allow you to handle the “defer” emails.

You can then process the optional folder when you have time.

If you apply the practice first to your email, you can efficiently get to Inbox Zero. Then as you maintain Inbox Zero, you will start to feel the relief that comes along with that practice.

It’s Time To Manage Your Email…And Your Life

Look at this exercise as an opportunity to change your perspective. If you view email as this horrible thing, you’re not going to want to engage with it at all. If you change your perspective about it entirely, all of a sudden it becomes something useful.

Most people look at email, phone, text message, and instant messenger as if they’re leashes that anyone in the world can use to pull on you whenever they want. But you can change your mindset to embrace the fact that these are great tools with which to communicate with the world. It’s not that you’re making yourself available, it’s that you’re making resources available to you.

My Inbox Zero Course is available now. FOR FREE. Just click on the link below.

Stop Raging. Start Documenting

Access without information and instruction is painful, and totally unproductive. But if you document the process, the problem disappears.

I travel a lot, and I’ve noticed something pretty interesting over the years: hotel reviews are almost never accurate. Very often when I’m looking up a hotel to stay in, I find myself a bit nervous after reading the reviews — the shower is slow, the lobby smells, the security guy makes weird noises, the cutlery is dirty.

And every single time those fears turn out to be unwarranted.

You see, one of the unfortunate byproducts of the information age (and the internet), is that we’ve commoditized (and militarized) an age old human tradition: whining. To complain is a very human thing to do — unfortunately, the internet has allowed what would otherwise be fleeting methods of vented frustration to be immortalized.

The same exists for software — scroll through G2Crowd for any piece of software you use, and you’ll find a shocking number of people for whom it was an absolutely abhorrent experience. Tools which form the backbone of your work and productivity, others found completely useless.

How exactly does this split happen? It’s a problem I like to call access without information.

If you really think about it, the amount of tools we use on a day to day basis is astounding. With the boom of SaaS apps in the last half a decade, every professional has their own toolkit. At Less Doing, our big two are Trello and Airtable.

The issue is, there’s very little onboarding on these tools. Imagine being a blacksmith and you just start hammering away on your first day — you’d probably leave a bad review for that hammer on G2crowd too, wouldn’t you?

Because the cloud has made software so simple to access, the typical onboarding & training you see with enterprise software doesn’t exist anymore. So pretty often, new employees for example might jump into a tool and start using it in completely the wrong way, leading to bad process and a poor experience.

The funny thing about this is it’s easily fixable. There’s usually one or two simple adjustments that make the difference between a bad experience and lifelong software loyalty.

I’ll give you an example. I was reading in a Google Groups thread a while ago of a guy who was complaining that Gmail doesn’t have a way of keeping evergreen content — that it was easy to lose important information. He was requesting a “pinned emails” feature, where you could denote extra important emails and have quick access to them whenever.

If you haven’t caught on yet, Gmail already has this feature — starred emails.

You see, the guy was using starred emails sort of like a to-do list — in the morning he would star the most important emails in his inbox, and throughout the day he’d prioritize those over everything else. While it was a pretty useful way to use the stars, it wasn’t the best way, and as a result he was missing out on the most important use case of that feature.

This is a classic example of access without information.

In the workplace, this can cause a lot of process disruption and make the onboarding process for new employees particularly challenging. I’ve got two solutions I’ve found that work well: talk in assets absolutes and people absolutes.

When you’re documenting a process for instance, don’t speak on assets in relative terms — i.e, don’t say “for the next step, refer to the payroll document”. You’ve immediately added a layer of complexity for the individual… where’s the payroll document? Do I need a password? What tool do I use to get there?

Similarly, referring to people in an absolute sense is essential in process documentation. Never say “once you’ve finished this up, send it to Geoff at Accounting” — say something more along the lines of “send it over to the claims department in accounting”.

You see every time you speak in relative terms, you add another complexity point, which is often met by resistance. While a good employee might ask about it to clear it up, often they’ll just power forward and try to figure it out themselves.

Every time this happens, it builds up “complexity debt” — and complexity debt is the biggest problem with access without information.

So, simple lessons: asset absolutes and people absolutes, and be cognizant of complexity debt. And on the employee’s side?

Ask questions.

I guarantee that you won’t just solve your own problem, you’ll be solving the same problem for a lot of your co-workers who were too embarrassed to ask.


I gave my team a benefit that I hoped would make their lives a little more relaxed, what I didn’t know was that it would change the fundamental operations of my business and increase our productivity tenfold.

We use a VA service called, Magic. I told my team they each had a certain number of hours allocated to have Magic do whatever they needed, personally or professionally. Since my team came from a VA background, I figured it was a no-brainer.

They were grateful but not engaged.

It was probably because their experience was on the receiving end; taking instructions, rather than giving them.

When I invited Magic to join our team Slack channel, everything changed.

Team members posted their requests in the channel, Magic responded, shit got done. It was all stuff my team can certainly do, but any of these tasks were better left to someone else, who could do them faster and more cost efficiently.

Once the process became transparent, other team members started to request things from Magic.


First, It was a visual illustration of what tasks could be outsourced and how to ask for it in the clearest possible manner.

But the game changer for us, was that the requests allowed every team member to see what projects other team members were working on and where they were in the process at any given time, based entirely on what they were asking Magic to do.

We’re a 100 percent remote team. So I can’t run down to Courtney’s office to see where the new course syllabus is, but I can look to see what she’s asked Magic to help with its proofreading and I find my answer, without annoying Courtney (who went to West Point and does not like to be annoyed).

It’s a big, fluid, virtual notice board in the virtual breakroom that allows everyone to see everything.

My team had to learn how to ask, and what to ask, to see what was possible, that was the first step. Now, after just two weeks of the system in place, we have broken our bottleneck, and everyone is free to pursue the projects that inspire them, not get frustrated with the prospect of handling too many things they’d rather not.

So we’ve hacked an external communication system (Magic) with our internal process (Slack) and now communication is a transparent team experience and project management just got a whole lot smoother.