Do Your Emails Result in People Doing Things? SADS Emails Are The Answer!

We are sure that there are some people who you email and you have a 50/50 chance or expectation that they will respond or carry out an action. That is partly about how they manage themselves and their email etiquette. What you write can make a difference to how an action is taken, or not, as the case may be!

Our Productivity Ninja, Hayley, says her favorite kind of emails to receive are the ones that state something in the title along the lines of ‘Two minute action required’. “This tells me a lot. It tells me that I will be done with this email in 2 minutes. It also tells me that someone needs or wants me to do something, but a very small thing. So, I both feel wanted (which is always nice right?!) and I know it won’t take up much of my time (also nice).” 

Email Etiquette

Most of her emails, however, don’t state that in the subject line. Most of the emails she receives are entitled, something along the lines of ‘productivity’ or ‘training’.  Her suggestion is using the subject line to communicate what you are looking for from someone –  that could be 2 minutes of their attention, it could be their opinion, it could be that you are asking for them to do something more significant, it could be that you are asking them for a chunk of their time at a later date. State in the subject line what you need. 

Often people don’t make clear what they are looking for. They let you know that there is a problem, they update you or share their ideas. They don’t make clear what you need to do with it. So rather than sending a brain dump into someone else’s inbox, ask at the start of your email what you are looking for. Ideally a “Yes” or “No” response, which makes it really easy for people. 

People are constantly ‘busy’. Too ‘busy’ perhaps to respond to, or digest what you are asking. Deadlines help to focus the mind. It can help to let people know when you need something by. That could include giving them a reason, such as ‘I need this for Friday because I’ve been asked to update at the senior managers meeting’ or, ‘Ideally I’d like this by Friday, but if that’s too soon can you confirm when you can get this to me so that I can clear time in my calendar to read the report?’

Saying No

A good way to remember and double-check whether your email passes the Productivity Ninja Test, is SADS.

Subject line- is well used and short. Ideally, indicate what kind of action if any is needed.

Action – make sure that the call to action is clear- spell out what you would like them to do. 

Deadline- make clear if there is a deadline, or ask when you can reasonably expect it to be done. 

Short- keep your email short. And if there is a lot of information to relay, perhaps break up the text using headings so that they are clear on the call to action and deadline. 5 sentences should usually be enough!

Here is an example on how to use this technique:

Version 1 – Subject: responding to clients on the website


 There have been a few comments from the customer service team, one on Friday from a new client, another last week from a client we have worked with before. I’ve heard it mentioned before so it’s not a new issue. Perhaps we should do something about that? Could we ask the team to reply quicker? Or tell customers when to expect a response?’

Version 2 – Subject: Quick yes/ no decision needed


‘I have noticed an increase in customers not being happy with response times when they contact us via the website. I would like to add something to the contact form that states we will respond within 1 working day. I shall go ahead and do that and brief the team. Please let me know before Friday if you aren’t happy with that decision.’ 

By Hayley Watts
Hayley is Think Productive’s Productivity Ninja for London and the South East. Read more of Hayley’s tips here

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