You are currently viewing Alerts, Rules and BLUF’ing – 3 Actions You Can Use To Save Gazillions!

Alerts, Rules and BLUF’ing – 3 Actions You Can Use To Save Gazillions!

When I was leading a large team inside a large organization, I could easily have been overwhelmed by 100’s of emails every day.

100’s!

Emails from Bosses, Peers & Subordinates.

Messages from stakeholders and partners.

And then I was saved by my, now, good friend Hugh Culver. My boss brought in Hugh to speak with us about time management. I didn’t know Hugh at the time, and I was looking forward to another ‘time management seminar’ like it was a root canal.

Are You Spending 80% of Your Time on the Wrong 20%?

First, I was blown away by Hugh’s energy and style. Then he taught us a couple of tips that I use to this day. Then I added a lesson I learned in the Army called BLUF (best articulated by Gen Stanley McCrystal).

These simple things have saved me countless hours and made life immeasurably easier.

Turn alerts off

As Hugh says, “just seeing, or hearing, an alert on your smartphone, tablet, or computer pulls you away from what you’re working on and forces you to think about that email. Remember this: the mind won’t ignore something unfinished. An alert pulls your valuable cognitive resources away from what you are trying to finish and says, “Hey, look over here—I want your attention!”

Create rules

Rules can quickly remove email from your In-box and give you a filing cabinet-type organization system. Here are good descriptions of how to set these up for OutlookGmail (called “filters”). The two must-adopted rules are:

    1. Create a folder called ‘CC’ and set up a rule that will automatically redirect any email that you are a copy addressee out of your inbox and into the ‘CC’ folder.

This will clear out your inbox of all but the email that is most important. And you can always visit the ‘CC’ folder and review messages any time later.

    1. Create a rule that will flag or highlight emails from those who are most important to your work. This could be your boss or your direct reports.

Obviously, this will allow you to focus on the truly highest priority messages.

 BLUF

The McCrystal Group has recently written about BLUF’ing your in-box. One simple but highly effective way to focus attention on what matters most is by using BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front). The method is straightforward: start an email by writing “BLUF” in bold and include a 1-2 sentence summary statement, including any necessary actions.

Below are two example emails. See how long it takes you to extract the relevant information in Sample 1 compared to Sample 2.

SAMPLE 1 Traditionally formatted email message body

From:

To:

Subj:

Sue, We will be presenting our proposal to the Board of Directors on February 3rd. You were instrumental in September during the early-stage development, and we could use your help now that we are working on the presentation. We’ve received some intel that the Board will be specifically looking for justification for why we want to go with Vendor B despite being 20% higher than Vendor A. You have the best technical background to articulate a compelling argument for our recommendation. Would you be able to review the presentation as a whole and then provide any relevant input for section 2? Specifically, we could use your thoughts on Slides 7-9. Ideally, we’d like to get your edits by January 31st. Please let me know if you think that will work for your schedule.

SAMPLE 2 BLUF formatted email message body

From:

To:

Subj:

BLUF: Requesting input on the justification for the selection of Vendor B (Slides 7-9 of BoD presentation). Input needed by Jan 31st.

Sue, We will be presenting our proposal to the Board of Directors on February 3rd. You were instrumental in September during the early-stage development, and we could use your help now that we are working on the presentation. We’ve received some intel that the Board will be specifically looking for justification for why we want to go with Vendor B despite being 20% higher than Vendor A. You have the best technical background to articulate a compelling argument for our recommendation. Would you be able to review the presentation as a whole and then provide any relevant input for section 2? Specifically, we could use your thoughts on Slides 7-9. Ideally, we’d like to get your edits by January 31st. Please let me know if you think that will work for your schedule.

Both e-mails have the same text, but the message and request are far clearer in Sample 2 than Sample 1.

Save your teams the time, and confusion, of digging through longwinded texts by offering a “BLUF” at the start of your messages.

Read the secret habits to make you a better leader

Finally

Implement any or all of these three, and the ROI on your time will increase by about approximately 1 Gazillion percent!

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