Sanford Institute of Philanthropy Blog

Becoming a Time Management Superhero

Time Management
It seems like we’re always looking to improve our time management and productivity skills, which are more important than ever as we find ourselves stuck indoors surrounded by distractions. So what’s the trick for managing these?

As a fundraiser, much of your time seems to be dedicated to “putting out fires,” responding to emails, helping coworkers, returning phone calls, and more. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seems like the distractions have increased, since we have kids, pets, and spouses at home with us. Even for those of us quarantining alone without the distraction of other people, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to complete all of our tasks.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you often work after-hours because you didn’t get enough done during the day?
  • Are you sometimes late to appointments (or cancel them altogether) because there is too much to do?
  • Have you ever said, “There just isn’t enough time in the day!”? (Trust us, everyone has said this before)

If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above, then we’ve got you covered. If you answered no, then we still have you covered - time management is rapidly changing in our current climate!

Incorporate more “deep work” into your schedule

Shallow vs. deep work is the theory behind the phrase, “work smarter, not harder.” Shallow work is the work we perform in a rote environment without too much thought given to what we are producing. It usually doesn’t create new value for our organizations and can be performed while distracted.

Deep work, on the other hand, requires a higher level of cognition and must be performed in a distraction-free environment. This is the work that generates new value for our nonprofit organizations, and it is difficult to replicate. The greatest portion of our important work need to be done in a “deep work” mindset, which makes the need for a distraction-free environment extremely important. 

How can you eliminate those distractions at home? Give yourself time throughout the day to focus on your deep work, perhaps when your kids are working hard on an assignment or your spouse is on a conference call. Find those pockets of time throughout the day where you find yourself mostly free from distractions, and get your most important work done during this timeframe.

Remember: work smarter, not harder

Understand different interruption types…and how to overcome these challenges

There are three primary types of interruptions: people, paper, and environment. Understanding the differences between these can help you overcome challenges with each one.

People

Challenge: There are too many people who all need something from me.
Overcome the Challenge: Prioritize relationships based on time of day and the needs of your organization.

“People” includes everyone you interact with, from donors to leaders to colleagues to family members. Prioritize your donors during work hours and manage expectations with others by explaining when you’re available and what you need to focus on. While you’re working from home, make sure you define expectations for your work space and set aside time throughout the day that you can use to focus on what your family needs.

Paper

Challenge: There is too much paper and too many documents.
Overcome the Challenge: Schedule, schedule, schedule.

Emails, reports, projects, newsletters… It seems like our paper trail (whether physical paper or e-documents) is never-ending, so it’s best to get these under control as much as possible. Scheduling timeslots (not during your “deep work” time, of course!) throughout the day to answer emails, take phone calls, and work on specific projects can be extremely helpful to establishing a routine ripe for productivity.

Environment

Challenge: There are too many distractions, and everything is cluttered.
Overcome the Challenge: Clean up, define expectations, and speak to your comfort.

Environment plays a significant role in how productive we are, so it’s important to keep our space clear of clutter and make sure we’re staying comfortable. If you’re too cold or too hot, for instance, dress accordingly. Choose a place in your house that offers the least amount of distractions possible. Note what options are available to you, and do what you need to do to make the space work for you.

Take advantage of the technology that is available to you

Many of us have started using Zoom, WebEx, and Google Hangouts to handle meetings, but don’t forget about other resources to help you manage your time and stay productive. Apps like Slack, Canva, Doodle, and Trello are helpful to keeping your fundraising team collaborative, engaged, and productive! Many of these have free or affordable options and are perfect for keeping yourself on track during these challenging times.


Want to learn more about mastering time management? Download our Time Management Resource Guide for more information!

Download the Guide



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