What Chris Brogan taught me at SOBCon (and why I’ve been so quiet)


Has it really been three weeks since my last blog post? Yes. Yes it has. Odd for a wordy girl like me, right?

So what has kept me so busy I couldn’t slow down long enough to write? Implementing what I learned from Chris Brogan during his great presentation at SOBCon 2010. Chris talked a lot about how he’s been restructuring his business lately and why he needed to do so. It felt like Liz Strauss and Terry Starbucker had asked him to come to speak just for me. I know I wasn’t the only person to feel that way but what he said impacted me so much that I’ve spent the last 10 days restructuring my organizations.

If this isn’t your first visit to my blog you already know that I’m the Founder and Director of four non-profit organizations. What you might not know is that I also work on a Development Mapping Initiative out of Secretary Clinton’s Global Partnerships Office, I’m the creator of The CHD Solution Workspace and am working on two Mobile Health initiatives – one in the U.S. and one in developing countries. I am very passionate about all of these things but I’m only human. At some point one of these is not going to get the attention it deserves.

Chris spoke about his many businesses and projects (he actually has more than I do!) and how he had come to the same conclusion – no one person can do this many things. So Chris decided to do two things – consolidate and build a team of disciples to carry out his vision. Chris is a pretty smart guy and I like to take advice from smart people so that’s exactly what I did.

In the last 10 days I have restructured everything.

  • Little Leo Foundation, my first non-profit that delivers care baskets and these soft and cuddly lions to children that have just had open-heart surgery, is no longer an organization. It is now a joint project of Big Love Little Hearts and One Hundred Squared. Why? I’m a firm believer that if there’s another non-profit doing what you’re doing you should either partner with them, find a way to do it better or step out of the way. When I first started Little Leo Foundation almost four years ago Saving Little Hearts was also delivering care baskets to heart families but they were regional to Tennessee. Since then they’ve partnered with Mended Little Hearts to deliver them all over the country. Because the only thing our baskets have that theirs don’t is Leo Lion (the aforementioned stuffed animal) that’s all we’re going to deliver – both here and abroad, through Big Love Little Hearts and One Hundred Squared. Making that change just bought me an extra 20 hours a week. Easily.
  • One In One Hundred is now One Hundred Squared – I’ll talk more about this in an in-the-near-future post, but we changed our mission and our name. We did this partially because the mission of One In One Hundred will very likely be completed by 2011 and because I needed a more structured umbrella for my two congenital heart defect related Mobile Health initiatives. Again, expect to hear a lot more about this very soon.
  • Big Love Little Hearts is where Chris’ call to build a team of disciples really hit home and that’s exactly what we’re doing. We’re expanding the role of volunteers and interns to cover nearly every aspect of our work. This involves building specific teams within the greater team and will increase our manpower from two to 87 by the end of the June. I can’t even begin to calculate how much more time that will give me to be entrenched in the aspects of my work that can truly only be done by me.

That last sentence is an idea that’s fairly profound for me – that there are things that don’t have to be done by me and me alone. Thank you, Chris, for instilling a lesson I needed to internalize. Thank you Liz and Terry for creating an environment where I could do so.

Is that the only thing I learned at SOBCon? Not even close. Check back in the next few days for more posts about what I experienced at SOBCon and how I’m implementing it in my own organizations.


Effective Time Management…My Best Friend.

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!