1,000 Emails

As Lee mentioned in his last post, my name is Brad Rex and I will be a guest blogger on Lee’s site for the next few weeks.  I’ve had the privilege of working for and being mentored by Lee for more than ten years, so I’ve got some great Lee stories!  I led Epcot theme park for five years after 9/11 under Lee’s supervision.  I have also been a nuclear submarine officer and the Chief Customer Officer for Hilton Grand Vacations. I am a graduate of the United States Naval Academy and Harvard Business School.

Similar to Lee, my posts will have stories and practical ideas to help you in your life and leadership.  Most of the posts will be the most popular sections from my book, The Surpassing! Life: 52 Practical Ways to Achieve Personal Excellence (www.thesurpassinglife.com).  Lee was a key inspiration for the book, as he challenged me to write down the leadership lessons I’ve learned over time to share with others, just as he has done.

One of the best things about Lee and a key to his leadership excellence is his responsiveness.  If I send Lee an e-mail, I know he will respond quickly.  This week’s tip will give you some hints at how you can manage your response time and become a great leader like Lee.

1,000 Emails

The speed of the boss is the speed of the team.

Lee Iacocca

 But you, Timothy, man of God: . . . Run hard and fast in the faith.

Bible, 1 Timothy 6:11

It bugs me when I call or e-mail someone and don’t get a response. My mind considers the possibilities: Is their voicemail or e-mail not working? Is the person on vacation? Have I offended them and they are refusing to reply because of the offense? Then, a few days later, I’m forced into new decisions: Do I contact them again? If I called last time, should I use e-mail this time? Should I check with someone else to find out if they are on vacation?

All of this would be unnecessary if people responded within 24 hours to their messages. I have set this as a personal goal, and find that it benefits me and the people who are contacting me, in numerous ways:

• It strengthens my personal and business reputation. People know if they send me an e-mail, I will respond, and respond quickly.

• It requires me to manage my schedule effectively, building in adequate time to reply expediently.

• It forces me to delegate in order to effectively manage the number of messages I receive.

• It prevents issues from escalating, as they are resolved swiftly.

• It reduces stress, as I don’t have e-mails and calls building up over time.

• It is efficient, as I handle the issue immediately rather than putting it off and having to familiarize myself with it again later.

• It keeps me on top of rapidly changing situations, rather than being several days behind others.

When I discuss 24 hour response, the usual retort is “Sounds like a great idea, but there is no way I could ever do that with all the e-mails I get. I must get 1,000 e-mails a day!” I reply, “If you are getting 1,000 e-mails a day, you are either a significant micro-manager or on every spammers’ address list.”

If the quantity of e-mails you receive is overwhelming, you need to reduce it. You should critically review every e-mail that you receive and decide:

• Do I absolutely have to handle this, or can I delegate it to someone else?

• Do I need this information on an on-going basis?

• Am I being “over-informed” by a person on my team, with many e-mails telling me everything they are doing in unnecessary detail?

• Is this junk e-mail that I can stop by unsubscribing to it?

With a goal of responding in 24 hours, you can easily monitor your success, and ruthlessly reduce your e-mail to meet the target. You may find your e-mails significantly reduced, as people don’t have to send you multiple follow-up messages, since you are now responding quickly!

Action Points

• Commit to reply to your e-mails and messages within 24 hours.

• Put in place a process to ensure you meet your commitment.

• Reduce the number of e-mails that you get by critically reviewing each one.


Less stress, a strong professional reputation, greater productivity


  1. Brad,

    Great entry. Email can be your best friend or your worst nightmare. All these tips are great to help you become a better user of email. Reducing inflow is absolutely critical. Two tips to add, first you should clear out your inbox upon response or completion of any email. Just a simple technique is to create a second folder where you move everything to. By seeing a huge list of completed or uncompleted email takes more brain power. Second, would be to use an if then type of response. If someone needs direction you create a quick if you do this and get this response do this, otherwise do this. It decreases the need for additional emails requesting clarity, another time waster.

    The 24 hour rule is critical, as perception is reality, and if people perceive you never respond to emails than that becomes reality.


  2. Great points, Kent! A clean inbox is similar to having a clean, organized desk–much less stressful and much more productive.
    Thanks for sharing your tips.

  3. If there is one thing that bugs me as a leader and senior executive, it’s other leaders that either forget to, or just never respond to emails from me when I am asking a question that requires a reply. One strategy that I have is based upon the ability in an email client to create custom folders – such as Outlook/Exchange. I have a folder that is called “Waiting for Reply”. If I know I am sending an email to someone that I am expecting a reply, I do a “Send and File” and save the sent message in the folder called “Waiting for Reply”. Then after a few days, I will glean through the mail in that folder and see who hasn’t gotten back to me yet. Round two is then forwarding them the email that I sent the first time and politely ask if they have had a chance to review yet (saving the second attempt in the same folder). If still no response, I will call them. If I get no answer, then I leave a voice mail. If still no response, then it’s time for me to have a discussion with their leader. It shouldn’t be that way, but they learn fast what my expectations are.

  4. I commend you for your patience and perseverance, David. I don’t think I would give the person that many chances! I’ve had similar experiences, except when I try to call, their voicemail box is full and I can’t even leave a message. Very frustrating, and an example of creating a poor professional reputation.

  5. Good Day, Brad & Lee,

    re: ” Commit to reply to your e-mails and messages within 24 hours.”

    It will be interesting to me to watch as the current 7-24 year olds eventually enter the work force. Many use texting exclusively. My daughter, as an illustration, uses text messaging and social media sites for almost all communication—responding to e-mails only when she must.

    Many of our current undergraduate students are the same – they simply do not respond to e-mail – only using text messages and social media. I suspect that this is partly driven by the clutter in most e-mail boxes. During a break in my graduate class I asked about e-communication and the general consensus is that; “nobody uses e-mail anymore.”

    Another comment from the class was: “e-mail is so 2000.”


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