Two key tips that are useful, and perhaps controversial so may only be useful when the pressure is really hot are:
- BLUF email formatting style — which may be interpreted as too direct and hence blunt for your organisation. However, it is clear, concsie and gets to the point which is useful in stress situations when you don’t want ambiguity.
- Eisenhower decision matrix — which may help you stop doing somethings all together and give you time to focus on the top priorities.
Handy Tips for Email Clarity
BLUF — Bottom Line Up Front
This is a style that has a military appearance but can be useful in an organisation where there is a high volume of email, readers are busy so often only check the top of an email in a preview window, and where staff are remote so may need to check with other people for formal approval on a key task or activity. It is easier if a team or organisation are all aware of this style as it may otherwise appear blunt and direct.
BLUF format for an email:
- Subject line starts with a clear keyword
- Name of the recipient (key when others are added as cc: and action is needed by a person)
- Body of email starts with a concise summary, identified with a heading
- Body then includes additional information, such as justification or background with detail
Subject Line Should Start with a Keyword
Subject: should start with a keyword, and a compact summary, keywords include:
ACTION — You are expected to do a task a result of this message
INFO or FYI — For your information, no action required
DECISION — Decision required
APPROVAL — Checking for permission ( such as APPROVED or DENIED reply)
Example Email In BLUF Style
Subject: APPROVAL for upgrade of web servers
Bottom line: Approval needed for website upgrade to support volume of users from 1st of June at cost of £123 per month
Current cost is £99 per month, New cost is £222 per month
Users are growing at 11% per month incrementally for the last 11 months
Current website will be unable to support user volume from 1st June
It takes 13 days to effect the change. The IT budget for this year included no provision for this work.
Handy Tips for Prioritisation
This is a method for prioritising tasks and the name originates from the belief that US President Eisenhower used it.
- Do — Do this task first, as it has clear deadlines and impact if it is not done
- Decide — Decide when to schedule this to do later, as no immediate time issue
- Delegate — Delegate this task to someone else, as it needs to be done but can or should be done by someone else
- Delete — Don’t do this task, as it is a minor distraction of no consequence.