I'm asked about this particular topic a great deal. in fact, I did a similar post almost a year ago but with a different slant here. So here's the story, I have a full time job, I go to graduate school full time and run the donor relations guru (which is like a full time job) all in one day. I'm not asking you to pity or envy me, but because I do so much and always have, people often ask how to manage it all. So I thought I would share some of my tips with you to help you with Prioritization and time management. You could be like me and not sleep a great deal but I don't recommend it at all. Here's what I do recommend.
1. Work in short, focused bursts. I say that I'm a great multitasker but in all reality a hyper focus for a limited amount of time is the best way to go. Take this blog for example, I write it every week on my commute into work, headphones on and I have a focused amount of time to complete the task.
2. Start with the bad stuff first. This reminds me of doing homework, I always started with the things I didn't like first then went from there. It really helps you prioritize.
3. Use your email properly. People are often pleased with my email response time. It's because my inbox isn't full of thousands of messages. My goal at any one time is to have less than 10 in my inbox. I reply and then file it away, if its in my inbox then it is a reminder to complete a task. Keep a great folder system and stick to it. It works wonders. And for goodness sake don't print emails, really? You can store them or use a free outlook tool like Xobni to help you find emails efficiently.
4. Avoid unnecessary meetings. This means using your calendar effectively, blocking hours of time for focused work and times when you're not at your best. For example I am a morning person (rise and shine at 5am) so if you want a meeting after 4pm with me you have to outrank me by two. So that means you have to be the VP or President. Period. I never break this rule and it helps greatly. Also, for those of you managing a staff, trust and empower your staff to go to meetings that are purely informational. It allows your teammates to grow in their skills and frees up some time. Do you really need a meeting? Or will a conversation suffice? In nonprofit work we tend to have meetings about meetings, under the guise of being good communicators, in reality we're wasting valuable time. We use instant messenger to communicate across offices and within our team and it helps avoid many many meetings.
5. Discover and know your weaknesses. I'm a great data girl and strategist, I'm pretty darn good at manipulating data and creating charts in excel, etc. but for the life of me I cannot make it print pretty all on one page with headings and all. So I have my teammate help me with that, for a task that would take me 2 hours, in ten minutes she's done and making me look good.
6. Ask for help effectively. Many people just don't know where to begin when everything seems urgent. This is where your boss will earn their big fancy salary. Ask them to help you prioritize. Don't go to them and say "my plate is too full" show them three things and make them rank them in order of priorities. Rinse and repeat this step over and over until they understand that their input is not jut valuable but helps drive your strategy. If they can't or won't do this, put together your résumé, no just kidding (I think) instead use donor surveys and data to build a set of priorities and remember you can't do everything all at once perfectly. Baby steps here do one thing really well and then move forward. Don't know where to start? Start with the four pillars of donor relations.
7. Finally ask the right questions in order to move your work forward. Before you ask those questions do some basic research. Before you hit a listserv with 11 bulleted questions or ask an expert for a strategic plan, do your homework. Google the question. Make sure that your question is concise and focused. I enjoy receiving questions from around the globe, but especially enjoy those that are specific, targeted and well focused. The ones I tend to ignore on listservs are those that can be answered with google and those that have more than 5 questions and could be answered in a day of professional development. Show me you've done your part and ill bend over backwards to help provide you tools and resources for free.
8. And please don't forget it's okay to say no sometimes. I'm not always great at this but am getting so much better. Saying no empowers you to own your time and tasks. Instead of no, why not ask a rhetorical question like, okay, what would you like me not to do in order to do this for you? Smirk...
I hope these have helped you, I'm thinking we should do a webinar on this topic together soon.
I am always open to your thoughts.