I’m writing this as I fly to Atlanta for NTEN’s 10th Annual Non-Profit Technology Conference. I intended to write about something else but the fact that I didn’t have time to do this until mid-flight made me change my mind….which means you’re getting my best tips for effective time management. *I’m publishing it ten days after I wrote it, which means I should do a better job of taking my own advice!
If you’re new to my blog – I’m the Founder/Executive Director/Everything for four non-profits. I’m a single mom to a 3 year old and am very involved in his life. In addition I’m actively involved with several other non-profits and actually try to have a life every once in awhile. Why am I telling you this? Because effective time management is how my entire life runs!
This can be hard when you’re the Founder and/or Director of a non-profit. There is always a list a mile long of things that must be accomplished. This list magically grows longer faster than you can cross anything off. Everything on it is important and in many cases, lives depend on your ability to get your job done in a timely manner. If you’re a one or two person shop, your list encompasses every aspect of running a non-profit – all of which are necessary and important components of a successful organization. So how do you get them all done?
- Keep a giant wall calendar in your office or wherever you spend the most time. I’m old school when it comes to this – smartphones, Outlook, or any other digital calendar just don’t give me the complete picture I really need. I have each month up on the wall and I plot out every part of every project as well as my personal plans for the entire year. I add to and change it all the time. It may take up a lot of space, but it’s what keeps me from missing deadlines. Obviously I still use the calendar on my Blackberry and sync it with Outlook, but those are just an adjunct to the heavy lifter – my traditional paper calendar.
- Never spend more than 90 minutes on any project at one time. After the first 35 minutes take a 10 minute break to answer emails and after the next 35 minutes take a 10 minute break to give twitter and facebook some attention. Then no matter how much work you have left to do on that project, move onto the next thing on your “must-do” list for the day. This is a really important rule for me – it’s how I juggle all four of my non-profits, parent, blog, tweet, facebook, foursquare, maintain my house & friendships all in the same day every day. The only thing that gets more than an hour and a half of my time at once is my son. He’s not a project – he’s my life.
- Learn to ask for help. Learn to be okay with accepting it. Understand that it doesn’t mean you’re not effective or good at your job – it means you’re human. We all are! No one is a superhero or a deity so don’t try to be one. If you know me personally, you know that above all else this is what I have to repeat to myself the most! I’m implementing this by expanding the scope of volunteer and Board roles in my organizations and by getting young, smart and energetic interns from local colleges and universities.
- Put yourself on your to-do list. The time you spend on any one project will be more productive if you’re not ready to fall over, pull your hair out, or cry from sheer exhaustion and stress. Seriously – if it’s your job to take care of and/or lead other people, the person you need to take the best care of is yourself because your constituents depend on…you!
This is how I get everything done, but I should point out that all I said was I get everything done. I do not get everything done right away because, well, that would be impossible! Sometimes I don’t even get things done as quickly as I want to (like publishing this blog).
What are your best practices for time management and productivity? We talked a lot about this at the NTEN Conference in the Social Media Vets Affinity Group. If you were there (or even if you weren’t) I’d love you to add your tips in the comments box below…John Haydon, I’m especially looking at you!