New year, new me?

Happy 2017!

Since 2016 was perhaps not the best (the great British talent for understatement in effect, there), I decided that 2017 would be better. Or at least, the bits of 2017 over which I have control would be better.

It’s a bit of a cliche to try and make changes in January, and I’m sure, like me, many people find it tough – the weather’s awful, it’s dark when you go to work and dark when you get home, the month seems to last ages and you find yourself wondering if you’re actually achieving any good at all. (Just me? Oh dear.)

However, there is something to making changes and being realistic about them. A small change is still a change, right?

The small change I’m making in 2017 is around emails.

Firstly, I’m not opening them for at least 30-45 mins when I arrive in the office. If there’s anything super mega urgent in there, I’m sure a colleague will chase me down in person. I’m allowing myself that first 30-45 mins of a morning to concentrate on something – redrafting an appeal letter, research, creating a complicated query, or even writing a blog post.

I’ve only been doing this for a week or so but I’m already finding that I’m less stressed out, and I have some brain space for thinking. And by this I mean productive thinking – thinking about my direct mail strategy, thinking of ways to strengthen my case for support, thinking about how I can give our donors added value. Thinking about things that don’t necessarily get the concentration they deserve or need to make me a better fundraiser.

The second thing I’m doing is trying to stop second-guessing. I have an awful habit of writing and rewriting an email over and over because I’m second-guessing the recipient’s response. I catch myself doing it and spending far too long faffing about with what should be a straightforward task simply because I worry about how it’s going to be received.

Now, I’m not suggesting that there shouldn’t be a bit of self-editing when you’re asking someone to do something over email; there absolutely should. We’ve all had that thing pop into our inbox and make us scream internally at the rudeness or condescension or whatever. But for me, continually trying to predict how what I’m asking will come across is holding things up. So I’m trying to address that by writing emails which are friendly but also clear and concise. And speaking to people face to face when I have no clue how to ask over email.

Finally, I’m taking control of my inbox, by scheduling a time each week for filing and checking.

It’s far too easy to become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of email a lot of us receive during the average working day.  I used to think it was easier to have just a few folders in Outlook and store most items in my inbox, so I could find things again. This system worked for a while, until older emails started disappearing into the mysterious place known as “stored on the Microsoft Exchange server”. Out of sight, out of mind.

So I’ve set up a more efficient system of folders, sub-folders and rules to make me less likely to lose important things, and less likely to get distracted by useful-but-not-to-be-read-right-now things. And I’m scheduling half an hour every week to go through and file what’s been dealt with (if I haven’t done it already), check what’s outstanding and make note to follow up again, and generally reduce the noise to a more manageable level.

So that’s my 2017 resolution, so far. This is just what’s working for me – you might find what I’m doing a terrible idea! If you want to make little changes too, it’s vital that they will work for you.

And crucially, it’s fine for them to be small. I think this post by artful fundraiser (Jeremy Hatch) sums it up perfectly:

“The best most of us can manage is some better practices and continuous improvements, doing better each week, each month, and each year.

And that’s really okay.”





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