Ten Time Management tips for Not-for-Profit Pros
Juggling workloads in not-for-profits can often feel overwhelming. We care passionately about the larger vision our work contributes to and it is very easy to overextend yourself. You know…skipping lunch breaks, working overtime, taking work home to lighten the load the next day. We’ve all done it. Life in non-profit world is busy.
Many organisations work to a tight budget which means we try and cram projects into tight timeframes. Many roles within not-for-profit organisations, especially the smaller ones, are double barrelled ones like Web Content and Editorial Assistant or Finance/Programme Manager. Combination roles often involve vastly different skill-sets. Add to that the fact that many of us work part-time hours and you have a complex work life to navigate.
Having a firm grasp of how you work best and how your time is best spent is key to ensuring the work gets done AND keeps you sane.
Here are my ten tips.
#1. Review and plan.
Start your work day by reviewing the previous day’s work. Did you rock it? Why not? What needs to change today? Plan your day. Make it achievable. So many of us have huge long to-do lists that we don’t have a chance of completing. That feeling of ticking off your day’s list is a satisfying one. Keep it realistic. You can always add more tasks. Some folks find that choosing three daily priority tasks helps them keep focussed.
#2. Know your working style.
Do you thrive on working at a high pace with music blaring and can manage repeated interruptions or do you need chunks of hyper focussed quiet time to knock out your best work? Identify what works for you and adjust your work situation accordingly.
#3. Identify your optimal times of days.
Do your work best work first thing in the morning? Get stuck into the juicy work when you first arrive at work and leave the email to after lunch. If you’re prone to a three o’clock slump, schedule afternoon tea or a walk at 2.45pm.
#4. Delegate one hour in the day to email.
Ditto for facebook and Instagram. Checking and answering email and other social media can eat away at your day. Limiting the time you deal with email means you have chunks of uninterrupted time to do the big stuff. Also, again if you work best in the morning, put these often less brain intensive tasks to the end of the day.
#5. Ditch meetings.
There’s a time and a place for meetings and it is not as often as you might think. Meetings, especially with more than one person, are a drain on time. If you must meet, keep it snappy. We have skype, email, a choice of phones and all manner of apps at our fingertips, use them instead.
6#. Take lunchbreaks.
This means you folks working remotely too. Leave the office for a walk if you can. I know there’s a lot to do, but even half an hour of fresh air and a change of scene will mean to return to your desk clear headed and optimised for the rest of the work day.
7#. Keep a workbook.
This is where you take notes during phone meetings, jot down big ideas, paste your receipts. Before leaving the office download any work left, ideas and concerns onto the page. If we externalise these thoughts and note the work still to do they are less likely to follow us home.
#8. Befriend technology.
Ask around and find the apps that make life easier.
#9. Drink coffee.
I’m kidding. Kind of. Although sometimes I think coffee makes the not-for-profit world go round. A wise person once told me that they aim to have coffee with an interesting person once a week. That coffee date could be the beginning of a collaborative project, a friendship or just be a simple way to bring inspiration into your working day. Different perspectives enrich our work. Give it a go.
#10. Leave work on time.
Or at least within half an hour of your finishing time. Overworked employees don’t tend to be content or highly productive in the long-term. Unless you’re in the run up to an event, leave work on time. If you are smart about your time management you shouldn’t need to work super long hours.
There’s no reason why we need to suffer to do good in the world. We need to bring our best selves to work. This means being smart about our time management and self-care. Burnt out not-for-profit professionals are no good to anyone. And believe me, burn out is messy. Trust me when I say you don’t want to go there. Get smart about time management and encourage your colleagues to do the same.
Anissa Ljanta blogs over at GrowMama.blogspot.com, is a freelance writer, works for NZ Soil & Health (publisher of Organic NZ Magazine) and manages a charity all while homeschooling her boy. She has twenty years experience internationally in the not-for-profit sector so she’s had plenty of time to work on her time management skills.
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