How successful CEOs can hack their email

Julie Morse

Julie Morse,


17 April 20200 min read

Executives have a lot on their plates. An overflowing inbox doesn’t need to be one of them. Here’s how our CEO at Front manages her email productively.

As a CEO, you’re no stranger to email overload. In fact, you’ve probably got unread emails in the hundreds every time you open your inbox.

Our CEO and cofounder at Front, Mathilde Collin, receives around 1,500 emails every week. She carves out 10 percent of her time from her responsibilities as a CEO just for her email. It’s probably not surprising that she uses Front to manage it. 😁

Here’s how executives can successfully manage their overflowing inboxes, complete with tips from Mathilde on how she manages her own.

1. Don’t be afraid to delegate.

One of the best ways to avoid being buried under a daily avalanche of emails is to know when it’s time to delegate. Get in the habit of passing messages to your team leads when it’s relevant to them. This has two benefits: It’ll empower your team to know you trust them with replies, and it’ll save you from having to hunt down information to reply.

Since Mathilde can access shared inboxes for every team in Front, it’s easy for her to pass messages back and forth without forwarding and creating more email for everyone involved. She can @mention someone internally on an email thread to ask a question about it, or she can simply click “Assign” and select a teammate to hand it over to.

☝️ Mathilde’s tips:

  • “When I receive a message that my team has the details to answer, I assign it to the right person and move on. And when someone on the team needs me to reply, they can just assign it to me, without forwarding it and creating more messages for everyone.”

  • “I also use shared drafts all the time. Gwen (our recruiting lead), Cassandra (my executive assistant), and a few other people draft emails for me, and it’s super useful. All I have to do is read through a message and hit send.”

2. Pay special attention to messages from your customers and your team.

It’s tempting to treat all email as a waste of time. But email threads from your team and your customers often hold key insights into their needs and challenges. Ignoring them means missing out on valuable information.

Since we use Front here at Front, Mathilde gets a look into what’s happening with every team — from product to support, operations, and marketing. She can search through a specific inbox like NPS Feedback to see first-hand messages from customers, or get updates on the latest product launch in Marketing.

☝️ Mathilde’s tips:

  • “Having insight into the shared inboxes for our teams here helps me stay up-to-date, even when I’m super busy and can’t physically be present. It also saves our managers time from having to write big updates for me on what’s happening with their team. Since I’ve got more context, they don’t have to spend all their time explaining what’s going on. I just have more information from the start.”

  • “I also always want to know if the team is happy. I wouldn’t be able to get the deep insight into team morale that I do now without being able to see our shared inboxes in Front.”

3. Stay in touch with customer support.

It doesn’t matter if your team is 5 people or 5,000 — as a CEO, you should know your customers. The easiest way to stay aligned with them? By talking to them. Find a regular time to hop in with your support team and answer support tickets. Hearing directly from a customer about their experiences, instead of reading internal notes or numbers on a spreadsheet, gives you a much more in-depth appreciation for their issues.

An added bonus? Putting yourself in the shoes of a support teammate gives you a first-hand look at their role, which helps you keep a pulse on your team’s happiness, too. With Front, you can easily jump into your support team’s shared inbox and start answering right away. No borrowed logins needed.

☝️ Mathilde’s tips:

  • “We use a Customer Feedback inbox that collects all our praise, suggestions, and complaints from customers. Anyone can scroll through whenever and see what customers have to say — the good and the bad.”

  • “I spend 15 minutes every day looking at all our customers’ feedback and reviewing their NPS scores, and I pick a few to reply to.”

4. Organize messages by date, deadline, and urgency.

When you’ve only got a few minutes here and there to scroll through emails and reply — maybe sitting on the bus or between meetings — keeping your inbox organized is key for finding information quickly and making sure you don’t miss something important. Stars and folders can help bring a little order to a chaotic inbox, but you can gain a lot of speed (and feel more at peace) with a more sophisticated organizational structure for your inbox.

Mathilde organizes her inbox with tags in Front, so she can locate things faster and prioritize messages that need urgent replies. Tag messages based on criteria like the sender, keywords, subjects, or dates and times. A lot of our customers use Urgent, This Week, and This Month to help decide what to look at first. You can view tags like folders on the side of your inbox, so they’re easy to access.

Once you’ve got your ideal tagging structure all set up, you can tell your inbox to tag things for you using rules. These are “if, then” statements you can set up to automate workflows you often repeat. For example, if a message has been unreplied for three days, tag it as ⏰ Needs Reply. Or for messages from VC firms or board members, set a rule to automatically tag it as Investor Communications. No work needed on your part — once you set the rule, your inbox does all the organizing for you.

☝️ Mathilde’s tips:

  • “I have dedicated email time every day. When it’s not email time, I don’t check my emails.”

  • “Since I can easily see my tagged messages, I can see what needs to be answered right away, and what can wait until later.”

5. Set yourself up for speedy replies.

With back-to-back meetings, flights, and presentations as part of your regular routine, replying to email is a task that often falls to the back burner. That’s why you need to make it easy to send replies on the fly. There are several ways you can set yourself up to reply faster with Front:

1. If you’re thinking, “Hmm, I’ve written this before…” then save it as a message template.

Message templates are especially helpful if there are a bunch of links you’re sending (a list of investors or partners, for instance), if you’re attaching files (maybe a press release or pitch deck), or if you have something lengthy to explain. Front also has dynamic variables to help you keep message templates personal. You can automatically insert a recipient’s name, contact info, or account data to keep every message personal by typing {{firstname}}, {{username}}, or {{phonenumber}}, for example.

2. Auto-reply on busy days.

Say you’re hopping on a 5-hour flight. You can set a rule in Front to send auto-replies to certain messages you receive, based on advanced criteria like time of day, sender, subject, and more. That way people know when you’ll be back online later and can expect a reply — and you get more granular control over who receives auto-responses. You can save these auto-reply rules and turn them on and off whenever you want, so you can build them when you’ve got time and use them whenever you need it.

3. Write and send follow-ups automatically.

When you’re writing any message, you can set a reminder in Front — it’s like having the Boomerang extension built into your inbox. This lets you choose a specific date or time to pull a message back up in your inbox if the recipient hasn’t replied, so you don’t have to worry about the conversation falling off the face of the Earth when someone doesn’t reply.

☝️ Mathilde’s tips:

  • “I use message templates and auto-replies when it’s necessary to get more information, or to let people know I’ll get back to them soon.”

  • “I also set reminders for following up, so then later when I do my email time, I can go in and give more detail if needed.”

With the right inbox setup, you can transform your inbox from a total nightmare into what it should be: a communication tool that helps you get your work done. Test it out with a trial of Front!

Want more insight into the workflows we use to get work done here at Front? Watch our on-demand webinar How we use Front at Front.

Written by Julie Morse

Originally Published: 17 April 2020

Stories that focus on building stronger customer relationships