The Simple Email Hack Successful People Use to Avoid Distraction

Srinivas Rao
5 min readDec 9, 2019

A few days ago I found myself drowning in email. No matter how many services, tools, and apps I used to deal with this problem, email was getting a far greater share of my attention than it should.

Services like ThrottleHQ were a big help because all the emails you get go into a daily digest. Fortunately, it’s what I’ve been using every time I want to try a new product or service. But it still didn’t address the issue of everything in my inbox.

I’m a no-bullshit kind of person with no filters or capability of sugar-coating anything. I’ve had clients who thought I hated them because I gave them tough feedback on their work. And my autoresponder makes me sound kind of like an asshole.

But I write, speak and produce a podcast for a living. I don’t attend meetings and respond to email for a living.

Replying to email is the least valuable thing most of us do all day. The second least valuable thing we do all day is attending pointless meetings.

Mark Cuban famously said “I don’t attend meetings unless somebody’s writing a check. I was tempted to put that in my autoresponder, but I resisted it.

Naval Ravikant says you have to ruthlessly decline meetings if you want to become wealthy. So I considered putting “I don’t attend meetings unless they are a matter of life, death or revenue into my autoresponder. “ But that sounded a bit too rough as well.

Employees at companies spend roughly 3–4 hours a day replying to email. The Atlantic did a research study on the cost of lost productivity due to email. They could have purchased a lear jet. If reducing the time I spend on email could get me a lear jet, why not give it a try?

There’s one thing I’ve noticed about the email habits of some of the most successful people I know. They have a separate email address for the most important people in their personal and professional lives.

Cal Newport makes himself intentionally hard to reach so he can do deep work. There are no contact forms on his web site. And if you want to pitch him on anything, there’s a page of email addresses you can use.

Srinivas Rao

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