How I Email: Jordan Harbinger, Podcast Host

Email is a non-negotiable part of everyday life. For some, it’s an unruly time suck, but enlightened email users have systems to ensure they’re not a slave to the inbox. We’re asking smart thinkers to give us a peek inside their inboxes, share tips, ideas, gripes, and everything in between.

Jordan Harbinger is the host of The Jordan Harbinger Show featuring discussions with the world’s top performers. Previously he hosted The Art of Charm Podcast, which received more than four million downloads per month. A former Wall Street attorney, Jordan has interviewed some big names, including: Neil deGrasse Tyson, Russell Brand, Shaquille O’Neal, Simon Sinek, Larry King, and many others.

Describe your daily email routine.

Every morning I get up around 5:00 or 5:30. I know that people say, “Don’t start your day going through your inbox because you’re just reacting to people,” but I don’t really have that inside my organization because I lead the show.

I’m usually just responding to fan email and then delegating projects for the day — to my assistant or other people on the team. So I do start with email and I can just knock out 100 emails in a block during the morning. There’s never a crisis or anything in my inbox because my team primarily communicates via Slack and Basecamp.

I’d like to think I just check in the morning, but the truth of that matter is that I check throughout the day because it’s a habit and also because I get opportunities on email that I don’t want to miss. Sometimes people will contact me and say, “Hey, I’m free in an hour,” and I definitely want to get those. But instead of reading all my email throughout the day, I usually triage as I go. I’ll snooze things, or mark things as read, or I’ll star things and then I get to them later.

Any tools or add-ons that you find especially helpful?

I use Boomerang for Gmail. I don’t understand how anybody survives without it. I often use Send Later because I don’t want people to get an immediate reply from me. I’ll write the reply while it’s fresh, but then I’ll schedule it to send in a few hours or day. I don’t want my inbox turning into instant messenger.

It doesn’t sound like you’re a devoted Inbox Zero guy. What are your thoughts on that approach?

That would be impossible. Like right now, I have 200 in there. They’re not unread. It’s just that there’s 162 read that are from fans that I need to get to at some point, and then there are a few that are more important but they’re not urgent. There’s a difference between important and urgent.

Urgent, you answer as quickly as you can. Important, you answer first but they’re not urgent. I will eventually get to the rest because I like to engage with everybody, but I will not bend over backwards or spend a Saturday afternoon to do it.

You’ve spoken openly about parting ways with your business partners, leaving a top ranked podcast, and starting over with your own podcast. When you’re starting something new, there tends to be more outbound than inbound. What strategies are you using to start new business relationships over email?

I strongly recommend digging the well before you’re thirsty.

Maybe for the first day or two of my new business, there was more outbound. I immediately reached out to dozens and dozens of people, possibly over 100. I already had relationships with these people because I had been creating and maintaining network relationships for so long — over 11 years — doing the other show. I reached out to everyone that I knew who could help. I told them not only did I need their help but I needed their friends’ help. Now I have so much inbound. You can really just throw gasoline on that fire immediately.

The problem is most people procrastinate creating relationships. There’s no way to make up for lost time with relationships. You can go to great events and things like that. You can try to step your foot on the gas, but you really can’t make up for lost time. You know, if I’ve been friends with somebody for a year, and you’ve met them last month and we’re both starting a new business, I have a huge advantage on you. Huge.

You interview top performers. What information have you gleaned about how they handle their own inboxes? Any noteworthy tips?

I’ve learned that most people, no matter how high of a performer they are, have terrible email hygiene and etiquette.

I know so many amazing high performers and email is kind of like this dirty little secret. It’s like their drug habit. You look in their inbox and they login and you go, “Why do you have 30,000 unread messages?” And they say, “Well, every time I look at something I mark it as unread and I’ll get to it later.” It’s almost never correlated with how talented, smart, or hardworking they are.

But a lot of really amazing people that I’ve met through the show like Bob Burg, Vanessa Van Edwards, and Benjamin Hardy have both systematic and opportunistic network maintenance. What I mean by that is they’re using CRMs to keep track of their email communication. They’re not trying to leave it to memory. So they’re chasing leads down. They’re chasing people down for opportunities, etc. They’re also using opportunistic network maintenance.

For example, if I post something on Facebook or Instagram, like a live event, I’m going to get a lot likes, I’m going to get a lot of comments. But I’m also going to get texts, audio messages, phone calls from people who see it on Facebook. They’ll use social media to remind them of me, but they won’t react on that platform because it’s not very intimate. They’ll take it above the fold, so to speak.

Final thoughts. What’s a weird email tip you’ve found helpful?

The people that you want to get in touch with are those who can influence the people that you want to connect with. Someone like a podcaster or blogger, will say, “Oh, okay. You know, I wanna meet Will Smith.” I don’t want an email introduction to Will Smith because he’s going bump me down to his assistant who is going to politely tell me to get lost. I want to be connected to his agent or his manager who is going to be hanging out with them on Friday and go, “Hey, man, this guy, Jordan Harbinger, he’s cool. You should go do his show.”