Your boss has no idea what you do all day.
Think about it: on top of managing you and all of your coworkers, your boss also has their own career to take care of, which is filled with meetings, personal challenges, and working with their own manager too.
Of course, you probably catch up with them sometimes in weekly or monthly team meetings, but it’s hard to go in depth in that setting. Likewise, annual performance reviews are often so high level that it’s hard to get specific about what value you add and where you really want to go.
People who get promoted are people who are known to add specific, meaningful value.
Emphasis on the “known” part.
If you are a superstar on your team (which I bet you are, if you’re reading this), then your boss probably just assumes you’re doing pretty well day-to-day. That will work for you if you’re happy doing the same thing forever and getting the same basically positive feedback.
But if you are striving for more, you have to share more and make yourself and your value known.
How to share your value in less than 10 minutes a week
For a lot of people, sharing their successes upward is really hard. No one wants to feel like they’re bragging, and many of us undervalue the many things we do and think they aren’t worth sharing.
But that’s wrong. The only way your boss can know everything you do and how meaningful it all is, is if you show them. And it is possible to do without bragging.
So here’s what you’re going to do this week:
On Friday afternoon, you are going to send your boss a short, bullet-pointed list of everything you did this week, what you plan to do next week, and any places you need help.
It’s going to be skimmable, easy to understand, and to-the-point. It will take less than 10 minutes to write, because you’ll draw all the pertinent info from your weekly to-do lists.
And it’s going to completely change the way your boss sees you — for the better.
Why status emails are one of the most powerful tools you can use
I worked with Ink & Volt’s founder Kate on another small startup where it was literally just the two of us for months and months. The first time I sent her a status email, she replied: “Wow, I had no idea you were doing so much!”
I share this so you can see: even on a two-person team where we talked on the phone weekly and emailed constantly, it was still possible for many things to go unnoticed. If you’re on a team bigger than that, even more of the many things you do are going to get lost.
If you want to get promoted, your work can’t get lost.
A status email also gives you a chance to communicate your questions and upcoming work plans in advance, you can make sure you are working as efficiently as possible every day.
Have you ever worked on perfecting a project, only to hear from your boss after hours of work that they actually wanted you to start on something else? Nothing feels worse — not only does the time you spent feel like a waste, but now you are behind on the new project. And on top of that, your boss had to correct you for not knowing the right priorities.
A status email helps you communicate the great work you’ve already done, and be prepared to do the most important work as amazingly as possible.
And the most important part, it makes you known to your boss. It helps you engage in an ongoing conversation with them — they can’t help but see you as an active member of the team.
When your boss knows how amazing you are, they can advocate for you — which is how you get raises, promotions, and new opportunities.
None of us works in a vacuum. It is only when other people value us and want to make us successful that we can truly succeed.
How to write a really effective status email
The reason I’m telling *you* about this strategy today is because, as someone who uses a notebook or a planner during your work week, you are in a position to have this process be ridiculously easy!
If you keep a weekly to-do list — and especially if you track your monthly and yearly goals as well — then you will have everything you need to write a fast, effective status email every single week. Here is how to do it well.
First, tell your boss what it is
If you’ve never sent a status email before, it can be helpful to let your boss know what you’re planning to do. You don’t need to break this to them like it’s bad news or anything; just a quick heads up, like:
I was thinking of starting to send you a weekly status email on Friday afternoons, to quickly communicate about what I’ve been working on and to make sure I’m on track with our team goals. It is a super short email and doesn’t need a reply unless you see something that I should fix.
You can even share an article about the benefits of status emails with them, like this one, to help them get the concept.
It shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes to do
Lucky you — your notebook is going to make this super fast and easy for you to do!
At its heart, a status email is a simple thing: it’s a list of the things you accomplished this week, and a list of the things you’ll accomplish soon. Your to-do list is a perfect log of these items.
All you have to do is take the information on your to-do list and type it into an email. Of course, there are ways to do this more effectively than simply transcribing your list, but you’ll save heaps of time by not having to think back to “hmm..what did I do on Monday?”.
Look at what you have crossed off your list this week, and then look at what you’ll be putting on your list for next week. Type it in an email and voila! You’re done.
It shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes to read
You do a lot, and the goal of this email is to share that. However, the most important part of this email is actually not just the content, but it is getting your boss to read it at all.
To make that as likely as possible to happen, it must be short!
You know what it feels like to get a huge, long, dense email. It’s annoying, and you’re likely to close it and “save to read later”. Which usually means, never.
If you have something that requires elaboration, just mention that in the message without going into detail. For example:
- I made it to ___ step of this project, but got stuck on ___. Can we meet early next week to go over the best way to handle?
Make it skimmable
This isn’t a resume; you don’t need to be 100% thorough or use fancy language. In fact, you shouldn’t.
The goal here should be to give your boss a very quick overview of the value you add.
Therefore, these emails should definitely use any team-approved abbreviations or shorthand that will help communicate your accomplishments faster.
The layout is important for making it skimmable too. Use bold and/or underline for making headings and important info stand out, and use bullet points to make the list easy to read. Here is a quick example of a good status email layout:
Accomplished this week
- Completed website for XYZ – sent to XYZ team for approval
- Published 2 blog posts (links to both: ___)
To do next week
- New blog post about productivity tips, to publish 5/23
- Meeting with design team re: XYZ print materials – I will send you meeting notes afterwards
- All-staff meeting is in 2 weeks – do you need anything from me in order to present for our team there?
- I don’t have access to ___ in order to do ___. Can I request access from tech services or should I ask someone else to access for me?
It should help you feel on track too
One of the best side benefits of a status email is that it helps you to see where you’re spending your time too. Do you feel busy all week long, but don’t have much to show for it when it comes time to write your status? That’s a good lesson that perhaps you need to prioritize other kinds of work.
A status email can also help you avoid that Monday morning “what am I going to do today” feeling. Instead of flying by the seat of your pants or trying to remember where you left off last week, your status email helps you figure out on Friday what you need to do on Monday.
No wasted morning time or false starts on projects your boss doesn’t actually want you spending time on. Just smooth sailing, clear communication, and lots of accomplished goals.
Try a status email this week and let us know how it goes!
I am sure that you will start seeing the benefits of this process almost right away. If nothing else, you will start to see an ease in your relationship with your boss and an increase in trust, as they begin to know exactly what you do every day.
You’ll become a superstar by always knowing what you should be doing, and when you are a superstar, you will be someone your boss thinks of for opportunities.
Let us know how your status email goes! Share your experiences on Facebook or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!