Don’t you just love tools, shortcuts, or hacks that help you get things done faster or more efficiently? After all, who wants to spend more time doing anything than you absolutely need to?

On that note, here are three awesome workplace acronyms you should know—all of which offer frameworks that will help keep you focused and on point no matter what you’re working on.

1. OHIO: Only Handle it Once

How many times do you open an email only to go back and read it over? Maybe three or four times?

That’s super unproductive work, unless you’re doing deep thinking on the matter. Given that experts say only 20% of our email is actually essential to our jobs, touching it multiple times only makes a bad situation worse.

Instead, OHIO! Open it once and do something with it. (This also works for paperwork, incoming mail, or anything else, by the way.) Try these handy tips from Getting Things Done for handling email or paper mail more effectively.

  • Don’t need it? Delete it!
  • If you want to keep it, but don’t need to take immediate action on it, file it away.
  • If you can act on it right away—think the messages that take less than two minutes to respond to—do.
  • For messages with real work content you’ll need to prioritize and spend time on, file them into an “action” folder, then return when you’re ready to do focused work in that area.

2. FIOSP: Facts, Issue, Objective, Strategy, Plan

Many years ago, a mentor shared this process with me, and I use it all the time for problem-solving or troubleshooting situations. It’s a huge help in organizing my thoughts and getting a plan of action together, whether I’m working on my own project or with a team.

Next time you’re faced with a work crisis you need to solve ASAP, try this:


Start by getting your facts straight. You might be tempted to go to assumptions, observations, or opinions, to jump into solutions, or even to blame the root of the problem. But when troubleshooting, your solutions need to be embedded in the facts of the matter.

For example, let’s say you’re trying to solve the problem of a client who’s unhappy with the call center service your company is providing. Here are the facts:

The response times in the call center are running at 60% of calls answered within two minutes. Our contract says we need to answer 80% of the calls within two minutes.


Once you have the facts of the matter down, state the issue driven by the facts. Again, stay away from blame and look at the implication of the facts:

The customer is flooded with employee complaints about our service, putting our future contracts with them at risk. Additionally, being non-compliant with the contract costs our company $1,000 per day in fines.


This is where you get clear on what, exactly, your goal is in the situation. It will help identify the gaps between the facts and the objectives.

Our goal is to answer 80% of all calls within two minutes as per the contract, clear up the current backlog, and stop the fines we are incurring.


Now, you step back and look at the big picture: how the issues fit with the facts—and what the proper corrective action needs to be.

Our strategy is to fix the poor performance by bringing in trained reserve staff, extending the call center hours by two hours each day this week and, when necessary, running calls to a well-trained overflow center.


Once you’ve identified your strategy, these are the tactical steps you’ll take to implement it. Here, you can assign tasks and timelines as needed.

Account Management
- Review corrective action plan with customer by close of business today.
- Provide customer updates every 24 hours until service levels resume to compliant rate.

- Adjust systems to accommodate two additional hours of operation by COB today.
- Call up three additional full-time staff by Tuesday.

- Review implications of non-compliant contract and assess damages to date.

Using this framework, you can go from headache to solution quickly and easily, guiding your team to a more productive conversation around solving workplace dilemmas.

3. BRAN: Benefits, Risks, Alternatives, Nothing

No, not talking about the cereal here! It’s a quick acronym for helping you evaluate pros, cons, and implications for making a decision.

For example, say your department is trying to decide whether or not to hire a new employee to help with social media campaigns.

Let’s look at BRAN.


  • Grow impressions and brand awareness by creating a consistent presence in the top five social media venues our audience uses.
  • Grow our mailing list.
  • Increase web site views.
  • Keep us on leading edge of social media markets.


  • It’s difficult to measure ROI on social media campaigns. How will we know if it’s working?
  • Adds a head count and expenses associated with a new hire.
  • Not sure if social brand awareness will contribute to customers or revenue growth.


  • Assign social media to existing staff on a smaller scale and measure results.
  • Find a low-cost intern to prove the concept over the summer.
  • Share the cost of a social media manager with other departments in the organization.


  • Continue status quo with current marketing efforts, don’t add head count or scope, and make no changes to grow the social media piece.

Remember, you always have the option to do nothing. Sometimes “not yet” is a good enough answer until you gather more information, more funding, or a clearer benefit statement.

The workplace can often be complex, but using frameworks and tools can help cut through some of that complexity—and get to solutions and decisions that better serve you and your work!

Photo of crossword puzzle courtesy of Shutterstock.

Updated 6/19/2020