The Email Habits of Highly Successful People

Our favorite women tell us—by email—how they manage the beast.

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"I regularly fail in my quest of achieving 'inbox zero,' but I never go to bed with more than 10-20 unanswered emails—I always start my day with a clean slate." —Ivanka Trump, executive vice president of acquisitions and development at Trump Organization and CEO and Founder of the Ivanka Trump Collection

"I keep every email I receive (except for junk), and anything I have to deal with I mark as unread. I'm not a flag person. Also my assistant reads my email to make sure I'm not missing anything! I do get through my whole inbox every day, partially because I try to unplug on weekends. My one hard-and-fast rule: No email when I'm with my kids." —Anne Fulenwider, editor-in-chief of Marie Claire

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"The last time my mother got angry with me was before she died, when she saw me reading my email and talking to my children at the same time. She was not a woman prone to anger, but she was definitely not happy with what she saw and let me know it. Since then, I have reevaluated my relationship with email, which includes no email for at least a half an hour before I go to sleep (instead, I have a hot bath and read real books), no rushing to my email as soon as I wake up (instead, I do my meditation and set my intention for the day), and no email while talking to my children (thanks, mom)." —Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post

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"When I get up in the morning, I reach for my phone and scroll through my emails for ones that are obvious and easy to get rid of. Then, after breakfast with my daughter, I try to clean my inbox out by 10 a.m. My biggest email weakness is not going back to the ones that require some thought rather than an immediate response. I tend to open everything and address nothing. To make this worse, I'm terrible at being able to ignore my inbox no matter what else I'm doing. I've had to often turn off my internet so I can write, undisturbed by the emails that come in." —Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef host, author, and co-founder of the Endometriosis Foundation of America

"I generally catch up on emails first thing in the morning. I'm in meetings all day, then there's usually a business dinner—so it's hit or miss what I catch in between. I've begun spending Sunday evenings busting out on my inbox and really cleaning things out!" —Sophia Amoruso, founder and owner of Nasty Gal and author of #GIRLBOSS

"I read my emails at LEAST 10 times a day and ALWAYS flag ones that require more thoughtful follow up and respond to those at end of day. I try to avoid email on the weekends altogether." —Stacy London, style expert and host of new TLC show Love, Lust or Run 

"My two most important rules when it comes to email: 1) Don't check your email until at least 20 minutes after you've woken up! I know it's hard, because your phone is probably right by your bed, but your day will be off to such a better start if you can wait. 2) If you find yourself writing an email that is overly emotional, whatever you do, don't send it right away. Stick it in your 'drafts' folder and come back to it later. You'll likely breathe a sigh of relief that you didn't send it once you've read it again!" —Randi Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Zuckerberg Media, author of Dot Complicated, editor-in-chief of Dot Complicated, and host of Dot Complicated on SiriusXM

"I have multiple mailboxes set up for different types of emails: scheduling, personal, and business. When something comes in I forward it to the relevant email box and my assistant manages it from there. Obviously personal is for me to respond to, so I go back in at the end of the day and reply to what is urgent and flag what needs to happen at the next available time. Might be fully impractical but works for the 100-200 emails I get a day." Amanda de Cadenet, creator and host of The Conversation and Undone with @Amandadecadenet

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"I usually try to deal with all my emails in the morning before class and rehearsals. I make coffee and sit at my dining table and try to catch up. The caffeine definitely helps. If necessary, I'll respond to urgent emails on breaks between rehearsals. By the time the day is over, my mind and body are so fried that I leave everything for the next day. Monday is my day off so I'll catch up on any leftover emails over coffee on Monday morning. If I have a performance that night, I literally ignore all correspondence because I need all of my mental energy to be focused, and sometimes there are nerves involved as well that make it hard to concentrate on non-ballet stuff." —Isabella Boylston, principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre

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"I never go to bed with any emails in my inbox. I can't fall sleep knowing I have some emails that I haven't responded to in a timely fashion. Without a doubt, emails are a total distraction. While necessary, they take away important creative time (where the real magic happens in my growing skin care company) from my brain. Before I go to bed most nights, I choose one project that I will complete in the morning BEFORE checking my email. This starts my day off feeling like I've accomplished something. Throughout the day, I usually keep my emails open, unless I need to focus on a project, then I'll close it down so I'm not distracted." —Renée Rouleau, celebrity esthetician and skin care expert

"At first glance, I comb my inbox for any leftover mail from the day before and respond to anything urgent. At second glance, I start responding to the regular mail, scrap the junk, and archive all the handled work. My goal is to keep an empty inbox, so by noon I will bring my unread email count to zero and then to do the same by 6 p.m." —Nina Garcia, Marie Claire creative director and Project Runway judge

"I have always been a detail-oriented person, and that has always played a significant role in my daily routine. When my morning alarm rings, I disable it and scan my iPhone for urgent messages. It's important for me to reply to these emails before my morning routine starts so my integrity and reliability stays intact—this is how all valuable relationships are nurtured. The most important lesson I have learned is to not stress over your inbox volume, but rather create a system to make sure it's as organized as possible. You should always know where an email is logged and have a search method mastered. With a growing team of over 100 employees, this allows me to be attentive to each team as well as multitask my personal schedule." —Amber Venz Box, co-founder and president of rewardStyle

"Since I run a digital web marketing firm, email is essential. But, it can also be a distraction! I follow this rule: If I can answer it in less than a minute, I respond right away. If it requires a longer answer, I flag it for later. I then prioritize flagged emails for responses. This way I can make sure to address time-sensitive emails first and the rest later. I also use email templates to respond to certain types of messages that I get on a regular basis. Overall, a very 'zen' approach to email management!" Shama Hyder, digital trends expert and CEO of Marketing Zen Group

"I reply to the more straightforward emails quickly or on-the-go so I don't forget to get back to people but flag emails that need longer, more thoughtful responses to come back to when I have the headspace or necessary information to properly respond. It's not a perfect system, but it is my own form of organized chaos." Lauren Bush Lauren, Founder and CEO of FEED

"I'm constantly thinking of one-off things to relay to my team, my staff and, of course, myself! So I like to keep a few documents open on my desktop (or the Notes tab open in my phone) to jot these random things down into each bucket throughout the day. Then at the end of the day, I compile the notes and send them around to my team as a checklist. This way I know they're getting the whole picture, and we're not bombarding each other with emails all day long. As far as my inbox goes, I like to go through it at key points throughout the day: morning, lunchtime, afternoon, and nighttime (just before bed). This way I stay on top of it without distracting myself by constantly responding to every little thing as it comes in–and I go to bed with a clean inbox!" —Nicole Lapin, finance journalist and author of Rich Bitch: A Simple 12-Step Plan for Getting Your Financial Life Together...Finally

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"I start checking email around 5 a.m. I do leave emails marked as unread to indicate for myself which ones require action. Opening and closing an email multiple times is a waste of time so I try to attack the email then and there the first time I read it. If you can't respond immediately to someone's email, try to at least give them an immediate reply with an expected timing for full response. In a day and age when everyone is 'always on' and 'always connected,' it's frustrating not to receive a reply from someone. Extend the courtesy of replying as quickly as possible, even if you can't provide a complete answer or follow-up; then follow up fully when you can." Doreen Bloch, co-founder and CEO of Poshly.com

"Checking my email is always the first thing I do every day; it's become as integral to my morning routine as a shower and cup of coffee. Because my inbox often functions as a to-do list, I like to have an idea of everything on my list even before I start trying to tackle my day. Now that I split my time between New York and LA, this has become especially challenging. Waking up at 7am on the West Coast means I've already been receiving emails from clients, publicists, and publications on the East Coast and in Europe for a few hours! AH! I receive around 500 emails each day. Many of them are press releases that get archived for when I'm working on a relevant story. The rest I try to respond to immediately, and if it's something I need additional time to work on or it's not as pressing, it remains unread in my inbox. Marking things as unread is super important for me, otherwise, once I've opened it, it gets lost in the abyss." —Nicolette Mason, Marie Claire contributing editor

"With the amount of emails I get, I have no choice but to check a million times a day and file as I go. I leave the ones to be answered in my inbox and anything else I delete or file into different categories such as 'Contacts to Save' or 'Receipts.' There's no day off, really...I'm lucky if there's ever an hour off!" Shea Marie, founder of Peach Love Shea

"I check my email first thing in the morning on my phone and after I filter out the junk/promotional emails, I respond to those that require little thought or scheduling. I scan the longer, more involved emails and mark them unread until I'm in my office on the computer or have more uninterrupted time to reply from my phone." Elizabeth Chambers Hammer, co-owner of BIRD Bakery and chief correspondent of the Human Rights Foundation

"I start my morning by scanning my email around 6 a.m. I make sure to answer anything urgent and create a to do list for the rest to prioritize my day. Then I go to the gym, and afterwards, I reply to major items around 9 or 10 a.m. I don't check my inbox much the rest of the day so I can focus on what needs to be done without email distracting me. If someone needs me, they text." Melody McCloskey, co-founder and CEO of StyleSeat

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