Piece by piece, message by message--I'm slowly eliminating email from my life.

In recent months, I've started using LinkedIn more and more as a direct way to communicate with business contacts. It's made a huge difference, and it's a bit surprising.

LinkedIn has been around for about 15 years now, but I believe a shift has occurred recently because many of us keep the LinkedIn tab open in our browsers, receive message notifications on our phones, and in general view this platform as non-optional.   

That wasn't always the case.

"I don't really use LinkedIn" was a phrase I've heard many times, but not as much recently. The stats are revealing here. LinkedIn now has 630 million users, but the numbers keep going up year after year. Even as recently as last year, I remember looking people up and seeing a ghost account (no photo, no bio) or an inactive account that looked fairly legit. These days, almost everyone I know and work with has an active account. How can you not have one? When I was mentoring at a college recently, I would encourage every student to beef up their LinkedIn page before doing anything else. From a business standpoint, it's how we find each other. And, it's how I prefer to communicate.

One reason is that I like to resolve communication quickly. I've well-known as an email dissenter, and the reason has always been-- because I hate clutter. I tend to have only a handful of messages in my inbox; I only retain the ones I really need. They are reminders about something I know I'll need to resolve, but that rarely happens on LinkedIn.

I was messaging someone just the other day. I sent an intro message. He responded and made a few comments and asked a question. I responded and the message chain ended. Done and done. By email, that would have involved more back and forth.

Here's my main point about email. Someone told me once that the best strategy for productivity is known as the "touch once" principle. It meant, years ago, that when you were handed a document, it's better to deal with the doc in one sitting. Maybe it was later in the day, but the real loss of productivity comes into play when you look over the document and set it aside, then pick it up later and work on it, then you finish the paperwork later. What I call the ramp-up period is where you suffer the most, trying to remember what you were doing in the first place. You spend a lot of time looking, thinking, writing--it's always better to deal with things once and move on.

With email, that's not possible. I still receive hundreds of them per day, but lately--as I've been messaging on LinkedIn more and more--I've noticed how my email counts keep going down. In Gmail, I compared new incoming emails I received over a week to last year around this same time and it was about half. That's a lot of productivity savings! Of course, I'm using Slack and I have a Facebook group where I interact with public relations folks. So those platforms have also meant my email deluge is dropping. 

What's changed is that LinkedIn users are more responsive these days, and we're resolving our communication once (e.g., the "touch once" principle for paper works for communication as well). It's not like LinkedIn is a new platform; Slack has also been around for years. It's curious to look back at my email influx and realize how many times I didn't have to respond. Not receiving so many emails each day is mostly due to how much I'm chatting on LinkedIn with my contacts and reaching a quick consensus.

You might think--what about strangers trying to reach me? Well, they find me on LinkedIn faster than they find my email. What about people who need me to sign a contract or resolve a conflict? It's better to chat about those things on LinkedIn, and they're finding me as well. If we're all on the platform, and all you have to do is type my name, why not skip the email? I honestly prefer when people send a quick chat to trigger a conversation anyway, as opposed to sending me an entire novel by email.

LinkedIn is far from perfect. One of the most annoying things I've found is that I haven't been able to connect with higher-profile users (either because they don't respond, we're not connected, or because they are an influencer and you can only follow them). And, it's not like everyone responds or even pays attention to chat. Still, I have noticed a change. It's become more useful lately, perhaps because most of us have that tab up.

So where is this all heading?

For me, it will eventually reduce my email counts down to almost zero. I'll Slack, text, call, and chat with people in a way that is more efficient and productive. Nirvana state. LinkedIn has definitely helped recently, and it's cool to see how my communication is now more immediate, efficient, and thorough. The goal: Permanent inbox zero.