Make your emails CLEAR compliant

A few years ago, I read a brilliant book by Bill Jensen titled Simplicity. There are many great ideas in the book, but one of them changed my life for the better. At the time (2002), I was covered up in corporate emails (200 or more a day, not counting spam). With all the changes at Yahoo, the CYA/FYI/CC/BCC gang was pummeling me with their forwarded and copied notes. Most of them didn’t make any sense to me and I saw no end in sight to the info-dribble.

In Simplicity, Jensen offers a simple solution which he calls the CLEAR system. Here’s how it works: If you get too many emails from one indivudual, most of which don’t need to be sent, then send them this note:


In his book, Simplicity, Bill Jensen outlines a system to save me/you TONS of time, reduce our email glut and simplify our lives.

I receive SO many emails these days, between forwards-cc’s and other such stuff. Much of it I don’t need to see! I’m sure you are getting the same emails too. You probably (like me) get a ton of calls, drop ins and even instant messages. Many of them clutter my/your life. The disruptions make it hard for me to do my job. Here’s a system I’m going to use when I talk to our leaders and who I work for and I’d also appreciate it if the folks that report to me do the same….THE CLEAR SYSTEM by Jensen.

When you and I send someone information we should be able to answer 5 questions:

C: Is it connected to my job??
L: Give me a list of things you want me to do about this information
E: What do you expect me to do about this information?
A: What is my ability in this regard? How can I uniquely help here?
R: What is the return on investment (me or the company)?

My friend, Tim Sanders at Yahoo!, just implemented this system and he gets 30% less emails, yet stays very informed of the things that are relevant to his job.

Don’t worry—I’m going to live this too when I’m thinking about forwarding/cc’ing or sending emails to my bosses. As Bill Jensen says….”the thing about great leaders is that they are very good with other people’s time”

Thanks in advance for your help!

Sending out this letter reduced my email load by almost half immediately. It caught on inside Yahoo, especially with new execs that were feeling the same pain. All of us were better off with the CLEAR system. Even two years later, I received emails with the subject line “CLEAR compliant request”, which I read right away.

If your email load is too much to bear, cut and copy the above letter and try out the CLEAR system and thank Bill Jensen.