Here's exactly how to write an email so your super busy boss gets back to you

Strelka Institute/FlickrStart your email with a question.
  • When you email your boss, be sure to start the message with a phrase like, “Do you think…?” Then outline a potential solution to the problem.
  • It signals to your boss that it’s an “easy” email that they can digest and quickly respond to, writes Catie L’Heureux on The Cut.
  • Another expert recommends being very clear in the subject line about what you need and when.

Over on The Cut, associate managing editor Catie L’Heureux has some great advice for emailing your very busy boss.

Simply put, start the email with a question like, “Do you think…” or “Could we…” or “Will you confirm…”

That way, your boss can reply “yes” or “no,” and doesn’t have to read – or pretend to read – a novel-length missive just to learn that you need an extension on a project deadline.

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Here’s one of L’Heureux’s examples: “Could we please pay X freelancer the usual $Y to complete Z task? [Tell her what the task is, and why this freelancer is the best person for the job]”

That part where you explain (briefly) why you’re proposing said solution is key. Business Insider previously reported on similar advice from Jocelyn Glei, author of “Unsubscribe: How to Kill Email Anxiety, Avoid Distractions, and Get Real Work Done.”

“If you’re asking a question, propose a solution,” Glei wrote. “Messages that offer nothing but a question like – What do you think about X? – are generally ineffectual. Busy people don’t want to figure out your problems for you, and they don’t want to write you a lengthy response.”

Allison Green, who writes the “Ask a Manager” column, also recommends taking full advantage of the subject line. Two examples she gives are: “TO APPROVE: September mailing draft (need by July 15)” and “are we ready to make Craig Jones an offer?”

Then again, sometimes you need more than a quick “yes” or “no.”

If you’re stuck on a project and absolutely can’t proceed without your boss’ guidance, The Muse’s Kat Boogaard recommends sending your boss an email that says: you’re stuck, you’ve tried these two tactics, and you’d like to sit down with them on this day to talk it over. (The full template appears in The Muse article.)

On The Cut, L’Heureux also shares some tips for replying to your boss’ emails. If your boss writes, “Will you do X?” you’d be wise to write back something like, “Of course. I can email it to you by 3 p.m.: a single page focusing on X, Y, and Z. Does that sound right?”

Again, it’s all about making it easy for your boss to respond and for you to get the information you need. A win-win if there ever was one!

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