Doing Everything, Accomplishing Nothing

I originally started looking for time management tips when my work responsibilities expanded.  But, I quickly realized my life in general needed a bit more organization and structure. Frankly what I thought was working, no longer worked as my work responsibilities expanded. So, in the past six months I’ve learned four things about my time management style and want to share the knowledge with you.

Tip #1 – Write everything down 

Working in a small office can be challenging at times. Sometimes, there’s just enough work that can be easily accomplished. And other times, there are a multitude of tasks to be completed with conflicting levels of importance. So, I have gotten in the habit of writing everything down. And I mean everything. I used believe that I could remember it all.  However, I noticed that it was becoming easier to I would miss emails becuase the phone rang or someone stopped at my desk to ask question and by lunchtime nothing I planned to get done was accomplished.

Therefore, writing it all down gives me something to refer back to just in case I became distracted.

And to be honest, this technique has helped me become more productive.

Tip #2 – Stop trying to make a single to-do list

It was probably wishful thinking to believe that I could make the ‘ultimate’ to do list.

So, instead of one huge to do list, I maintain multiple to-do lists. As Penelope Trunk wrote, “It’s more complicated to look at, for sure, but it’s hard to have a secure feeling that I’m taking care of multiple facets of life if I do not see multiple plans written out. And that, really, is what a to-do list is—a plan to get what I want from that part of my life.”

Of course, it’s complicated to look at, but it allows me to see the range of things happening in my life and make decisions about what to prioritize.

Tip #3 – Be flexible

Sh*t happens. A grantee may call with a technical assistance question. Your program officer may need an ad-hoc report. Or you may even be asked to attend a meeting at the last minute to represent your employer and a project may be but on hold for another day. And that is okay.  And when I finally admitted to myself  that trying to maintain an hourly schedule was not going to work, a weight was lifted off of my shoulders.

Tip #4 – Make time to plan

In a small office it is easy to get absorbed in your own work or simply complete a task and jump to the next important thing. Therefore, each day I set aside 15 to 30 minutes to plan for the next day or week depending on the amount of work to be done. Doing so allows me to avoid bringing work home. And, it also makes it much easier to start the day knowing exactly what needs to be done instead of racking my brain trying to remember what was not completed the previous day.

As Beth Kantor explained, ” in the nonprofit sector, time is our most valuable resource,” so I hope that these tips help you manage your time in a better way.

Photo by hmcotterill

Do you have any specific time management tips that have helped you? 

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