Reduce Your Email Workload with the Three-Email Rule


Patrick Allan

May 23, 2015

You can be a lot more productive when you have to spend less time explaining things over email. By setting a limit on how many times you’re willing to discuss something over email, you can reduce your workload and avoid any miscommunication.

Emails have the potential to turn into long, drawn out message chains that fill up your inbox and eat away at precious working hours. Phil Simon, the author of Message Not Received, recommends you invoke the “three-email rule”:

Put as succinctly as possible, after three messages, it’s time to talk. In my email signature, you’ll find that very rule… I abide by a three-email rule. After three, we talk.

By limiting an email conversation to three emails—and informing the other party of it in your signature—it will force you and the other party to be as clear as possible in your emails. It will also let you know when it’s time to pick up a phone or walk to their office to clear things up. Simon does note, however, that it can be used as more of a guideline too, since some issues do require a little more back and forth. Still, this rule can help keep your inbox numbers down and help avoid any miscommunication in the future.

The ‘3-email rule’ is the key to solving the biggest problem with your inbox | Business Insider

Photo by SuperFantastic.


This article was written by Patrick Allan from Lifehacker and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

There are 6 comments

  • Malcolm Morris - CFSP - Foodservice - 06/28/2015 22:21
    The biggest email frustration that I have is when the replying person does not change the subject heading when they change the tone and content of the email reply. Black always stays black though in two emails time we are talking about white. Food for thought!

  • Mike Previte - 06/13/2015 04:11
    As a teacher, I find that my adult students clearly get upset when their co-workers use e-mail to escalate conflicts including cc'ing "the world". This rule is a good one to adopt!

  • Michael Naylor, MBA - 06/12/2015 03:28
    I actually implemented the two email rule for a couple of reasons. The first reason was to cut down on emails. While this a benefit it is not the only or best reason to implement this rule. The real reason I would implement this rule is really to improve communications. To many times I have been on email chains that go back and forth and never lead to a ressoution. People mistake a response and get hurt feelings and things escalate because you cannot determine tone and sometimes context in emails.While email does have value, if we do not use it properly it can lead to larger problems.

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