Write letters like Lincoln, to yourself.

At a recent speaking engagement in New York City, I got a good book tip and a great piece of advice from David Brown (Grand Pacific Resorts co-Pres): Take a lesson from Lincoln and send your nasty grams to yourself.

In the book Lincoln on Leadership, author Donald Phillips describes how Lincoln wrote scathing and satirical letters to his generals and then filed them away and never sent them. Those letters, if sent, would have undermined his ability to inspire and lead.

He was able to “air it out” without making enemies. This exercise was a useful tool in helping Lincoln to cope with the times and still influence people.

In our modern times, we write scathing or satirical letters to our “generals” and partners in life — and we send them via email! We hit the send button and duck. David Brown told me that after reading about Lincoln, he started to protect himself by sending emails addressed to himself with the intended recipient in the subject line. Later, when he received those emails, he had a chance to reconsider his tone and then properly forward them if they actually still needed to be sent. He gets the best of both worlds (relief and constraint) with this technique. Lincoln would be proud.

PS — He also uses this system when flying, so he doesn’t inadvertently send emails to his reports at 3AM when he gets home from the airport and sticks his laptop in the docking station. As you’ll see in a future email rule, you shouldn’t send late night or weekend emails to your reports as it creates a feeling of guilt on their part (that you are working so hard and they aren’t.)

Recommended Read: Lincoln On Leadership by Donald Phillips