Overwhelmed and Overcommitted?
Feeling overwhelmed is daily life in the nonprofit world. Too much work and too few people. To me, nonprofits are suffering as much as the people they are serving. There are no simple answers on how to manage your time daily to achieve more impact when resources are tight and demand is great.
Yet, unified in our desire to impact the world for the better, we seek ways to take back control of our daily schedule so that at the end of the day, we know we are traveling lighter and faster in our quest to help others. And, we feel human again… we feel alive… and we feel connected to our mission.
Here are some tips that will help you change the way you live your days so that your days aren’t controlling you.
- Start each day with listing what 3 goals you are working toward, not with looking at your to-do list. Then start a new to-do list based on those goals.
- Take a fresh look at what’s on your previous to-do list, and what shouldn’t be there, to begin with. You need a way to sort out those projects, tasks, and meetings that should never be on your to-do list and begin to look at whether they align to accomplishing the big goal or goals you have set for yourself.
- As you look at your schedule and your to-do list, start asking yourself whether the task you are doing is really the task to be focused on to achieve the results you want.
I’d like to challenge you on taking a look at whether you’ve overcommitted yourself. First of all, recognize that you have done this to yourself, but you’re not alone. We all do it. But you have to start taking responsibility for creating the situation. Changing your patterns of choice can be hard or easy.
- Say no. Ok, so you hate to disappoint someone, or you’re afraid of getting fired if you say no to the board chair (rather than negotiating). Or you’re afraid of missing out on an opportunity. The question is whether the time is right for you, not for them.
- Look again at your calendar – can you reschedule? I bet there are some you can. Can you Skype rather than traveling? Think through what will be accomplished at that meeting or lunch or trip.
- Learn to delegate. I know, everyone who doesn’t delegate says the same thing: “Nobody can do it as well as I can.” Or this one: “I can’t afford it.” Have you actually done the math on that? Or, “I am a one-person office.” Get an intern, or better yet, a volunteer that you can train. Seek out competent volunteers that work for you on a regular basis that you can trust. I know a nonprofit that trained a community volunteer to do all their donor data entry, and process thank you letters. At year-end giving, it was over 1,000 gifts. If someone can do it 80% as well as you let them do it.
Control the distractions
I’ve saved the best tip for the last: Control the distractions. Schedule the time you spend on email, phone calls, and open office hours. Set a limit for yourself to answer emails and voicemails, and interact on social media, to two main times per day. Check once in the morning, and once in the early afternoon, with a short check-in for urgent items at the end of the day.
I’ve got lots more tried and true tips that nonprofit executives and managers use. You can have days where not only more gets done, but what gets done has true impact. Sign up today!