3 Reasons to include Deadlines in Subject Lines

Recently, we talked about Email Etiquette. One topic I'd like to highlight more specifically is the advantage of using a deadline or timeline in the Subject Line. When we are writing and considering our positions as servant leaders, our objective should always be to seek clarity and connection.

Including the deadlines for the action you request in the email borrows from the marketing concept to

  • improve clarity,
  • drive action, and
  • increase time efficiency.


Servant leaders understand the pressure of time on their (our) readership. We talked about crafting emails using the Call to Action or Cover Your Asset layouts. In a Call to Action (CTA) email, we are asking the readers to accomplish a specific task. As business leaders, we need tasks to be accomplished by a set time. Help your readers by putting that deadline up front in the subject line.


The Rule of 7 in marketing was developed in the 1930s, while the principle is a very different in today's world, we can borrow from its implications for our purposes. In short, the Rule of 7 can be summarized by saying that in individual must hear, see, touch, or feel your message at least 7 times before taking action. For those in sales, that means buy something. For us in leadership, this means, that we need to be patient and repetitive with our members. In particular, since we are talking about the written word via email.

Let's borrow from the Rule of 7 concept and highlight the very important deadlines in the subject line. Later, in the body of the email, include timelines and deadlines associated with each task. You will not get these 7 marketing touches in one email, but by including in the subject line and the text, you have doubled the touchpoint in your messaging.

Time Efficient

In today's two primary professional email systems, Outlook and Gmail, the task button associated with the email with automatically associate an email to a task on the reader's calendar. If you include the deadline in the Subject Line, these two email systems will "suggest" your deadline on the reader's calendar. If you are unfamiliar with this function, do a little searching and learn more about how tasks, calendars, and emails interact in your system. You will be doing both your team members and yourself a favor.

Most emails are read on the a mobile app these days. I check my emails each evening in preparation for the coming week / day. Yes, I highlight and categorize emails that have dates in the subject line. I am so grateful for those individuals who ask for a response by a given date. It simply makes my week easier to organize.

Please consider adding the the deadline to the subject line. Your readers will be grateful for your consideration of their time. This consideration is a hallmark of a servant leader.

Next Steps

 So...how does it look? Adding the deadline can be simple. Consider the following examples:

Subject: Project X Worksheet Follow-up, Response due January 21, 2021


Subject: Survey Results due by February 21, 2021


Subject: Friendly Reminder, Employee Reviews to be completed by 5 PM EDT January 31, 2021 

Three reasons support using a deadline in your CTA email: clarity, marketing, and time efficiencies. Find a manner that feels comfortable for you and your team, add that date (and time if necessary). Be specific. Sometimes Close of Business (COB) means different things to different people if you are working across shifts or time zones. 

If you want more information, please subscribe to the email list.  As I go along, I will be creating guides and freebies that will be exclusive to members of the email list, so be sure to sign up so you don't miss any of these helpful and exciting goodies. To get started, click on the subscribe blue button over the upper right of this page.

More Reading

Call to Action: Emails that drive action (2021)

Email Etiquette: Effective Emails for Leaders (2021)

Rule of 7: How social media crushes old school marketing (2018)



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