New Year; New You (and a Quiz)

Welcome to 2019 — and welcome back to Giving Tree’s blog. I’m going to spend January talking about (what else…?) New Year’s resolutions and the work/life balance. Why? Because this is the time of year we spend about three weeks talking about our hopes, dreams, visions for change, and how much sugar we ate in 2018. That last part I can’t really help you with, but the vision for change – YES! And I want to focus on the number one challenge I confront with my coaching clients – time management. If better time management is near the top of your resolution list, this one is for you. And if not, I have a feeling you might still leave this page with a take-away or two.

As nonprofit professionals, we are accustomed to doing a lot with very little. Perhaps we do too much. Do you find yourself telling your children (and/or younger colleagues) that “life used to be simpler”? If so, you’re not alone. Most of us feel overwhelmed by the constant flow of information, the expectations around (near instant) turnaround times, and the dings, rings and alerts our smart devices make to let us know we are needed. Our brains hardly have a minute to rest -and there is research to show that instead of making us better, all of this simultaneous stimuli actually makes us less accurate and less efficient – and certainly more stressed and anxious. Thus, the case for better time management. Let’s explore how we can get MORE done in LESS time and introduce more balance into our lives.

First – a short quiz. Jot down the answers to the following three questions (and for you managers out there – try doing this with your team and discuss):

With regard to your time management skills/efficiency/behavior, how would you currently rate yourself (on a scale of 1 – 10, 10 being the highest)?

What seems to be working for you vs. what could you be doing better to manage your time?

What methods are you currently employing to minimize interruptions during work hours, if any?

If you rated yourself below a 6, you probably need to think about some new time management strategies! And if you couldn’t think of a single example of how you work to minimize interruptions, I’m glad you are reading. Let’s explore further. The best way to better manage your time is to understand how you spend it. I can suggest a few ways to analyze your day and/or your week.

First, create a pie chart, or any graphic, that represents how you *think* you spend your day or week. I.e., would you estimate you spend 20% of your week preparing direct mail appeals? Another 10% on board development, 10% on committee development and the rest on major gifts? If so, list these estimates or represent them in your pie chart. Then, for as many days as is reasonable (but at least 3, so that you have a sense of a normal day), track your work day, hour by hour. The easiest way to do this is to use the notes field, calendar or an app on your phone. You can even use an old fashioned notebook! The bottom line is that you should write down how you spend each hour with as much accuracy as possible. Once you have completed this task for several days, compile the results and group them into categories similar to those used on your original pie chart. Calculate what portion of your day or week this task area represents.  Finally, compare your estimate to your actual time chart. How close were you? For most of us, this is an eye opening experience and allows us to see clearly where our time is spent.

Another way for you to not only better understand how your time is spent, but also to both categorize and prioritize your work, is to use a time management grid. We have attached a sample grid as the freebie for this week, so be sure to check it out. This grid organizes your work by quadrants (Stephen Covey, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People http://www.planetofsuccess.com/blog/2015/stephen-coveys-time-management-matrix-explained):

Q1: Urgent and Important (reduce these)

Q2: Important and not urgent (maximize these)

Q3: Urgent and not important (delegate or reschedule)

Q4: Not important and not urgent (avoid!)

Move every task on your to-do list to one of the quadrants on this matrix. The objective of using a time management matrix is to question whether a certain activity brings you closer to your goals or not. This can be used to re-prioritize your to-do list or can be used on a weekly basis to help with planning.

I hope these tools have been helpful in embarking upon your time management journey. Join me again in two weeks as we continue this discussion and further explore your work/life balance! Namaste.