Bottom Line Up Top


Rapid Email Triage

In another effort to manage my burgeoning work email inbox, I have been trying to train colleagues to write emails in a way that makes it quicker to digest and decide on suitable actions. Many emails are written as narratives, so that you need to wade all the way through several hundred works before you find out there is nothing I need to know or do. They have subject lines like 'Third Form' or 'Thursday Afternoon', which tell me nothing useful.

Bottom Line Up Top is a military habit of putting the key information at the beginning, with an informative subject line and the main points summarised right in the first paragraph, with supporting information further down. So a subject of 'ACTION: All 3rd Form tutors needed at breaktime meeting Thursday' would let you triage immediately. The detailed subject line means that you don't need to open the email right now, and many people could delete immediately.

So, I have been sending emails with subject lines starting with 'ACTION: ', 'INFO: ' and 'REQUEST: ', hoping that others will start doing the same, while telling colleagues that if they want me to not delete their emails without opening them they need to make it clear in the subject line what it is about.

Has it worked? Sort of. I am deleting emails at a wicked rate based on what I can see from the inbox view without opening them, working on the assumption that if I make a mistake in deleting an important email then I will get a nagging follow up eventually. One senior manager has taken up the habit though, so I live in hope that it might become a workplace policy eventually.