Staying on top of email and managing your inbox is a constant activity.

It’s like a toddler – you don’t want to turn your back on it for very long or something bad will happen!

We all have more to do than we will ever get done and it’s easy to get overwhelmed from time to time. Email is a huge contributor to that overwhelm.

The trick is to manage your inbox instead of letting it manage you.

You see, your inbox is basically other peoples’ agendas for you.

I don’t know about you, but I can spend hours just responding to email. That means fewer hours for the things I NEED to get done.

Email Inbox Strategy

Here’s my personal strategy for managing my inbox and keeping it from getting out of hand.

This process is particularly helpful after a long weekend unplugged or after a vacation.

Open your inbox sometime in the morning. Maybe not FIRST thing because you should take some time to plan your day and work through your personal fundraising success plan.

Inbox Quick Cleanup

Start by moving quickly through 3 categories of things that you can handle quickly just to get them done and clean up some space in both your inbox and your mind.

1. Delete anything that can safely be deleted right now. I love doing that! For me, this means ads from my favorite stores, some newsletters I don’t want to read, and spam. If I have time, I go back through and unsubscribe from newsletters I no longer want to receive.

2. Anything you can act on in 2 minutes or less, do it. If a member of your team needs a quick answer or if there’s a receipt you need to print, get those done and out of your way. It clears the space for other things.

3. Put anything that you want to read but don’t have time to read now (like newsletters) into a “read later” folder.  That helps clear up even more space. Be sure to mark the last 30 minutes of your day to come back and read through these items.

By getting rid of these things first, you reduce the overwhelm that your inbox can create.

Prioritize and Focus to Manage Your Email

Now that you’ve taken care of the little things, it’s time to move on to the really important stuff.

1. Make a list of anything that needs immediate attention. Mark anything from your Board that needs immediate attention and anything from donors, sponsors, prospects, the media, or someone who is in a position to help you.

2. Prioritize the list that needs your attention.  Take a minute to make a decision about which tasks to tackle first. Consider urgency and importance as you review each item. Personally, I would work on anything donor related first (always take care of the goose that lays the golden eggs!!).

Then work through the list. Hopefully, you can get through the list in 30 minutes or so and when you do, close your email. Don’t leave it open because every time there’s  a notification of a new email, it’s an interruption and you’ll be tempted to stop what you’re doing to see what new message has arrived.

Hope this is helpful to you to manage your email inbox!