Nonprofit Executive Directors have to manage their time and wear several different hats in order to be effective. Nonprofit leaders need to have a deep understanding of what motivates their base, understand financial drivers, be persuasive, and know how to get the most out of a staff with limited resources. Not only that, but they need to do this in an environment that is constantly changing. Nonprofit organizations are consistently confronted by new technology, new ideas, and stiff competition for donor and supporters money and attention.
How can Nonprofit Executive Directors be more effective? Below are a few tips the Muster team has curated to help Executive Directors manage their time and reach their goals.
Tip 1: Write it Down, and Have A Process
David Allen presents a process in his book “Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress Free Productivity” that is a great primer on reducing stress and becoming more effective. You have to have a process for managing your time. It is important to transfer the tasks and action items that are in your brain to something that you can access later. You can write these tasks down on a piece of paper, a whiteboard, a computer application (Evernote, Outlook, Etc.), a calendar, a journal, it really doesn’t matter as long as it is captured somewhere. Once the information has been captured there needs to be a process for categorizing that information. Mr. Allen suggest using a decision tree and classifying information as:
- Tasks that are not actionable
- Trash - don’t worry about completing the task
- Someday it will be actionable - Hold for review
- Reference - keep the information somewhere where it is easy to retrieve
- Projects - require planning and multiple steps
- Capture the Next Action
- Immediately Actionable - complete the task
- Not immediately actionable
- Delegate the task
- Defer the task to someone who can take action
- Urgent and Important, then
- Important, but not urgent schedule for later, then
- Urgent, but not important (delegate to someone else)
- Neither urgent nor important (eliminate the task)
Tip 2: Minimize Meetings
There is a time and place for holding regular meetings, but keep the meetings to a necessary minimum.
Tip 3: Boost Your Energy To Be More Effective
In 2007, an article in The Harvard Business Review suggested that to be more effective at work stop worrying about time management and start managing your energy. It’s not a surprise that individuals that exercised, limited alcohol consumption, and had a balanced diet increased their performance and effectiveness on the job. The study showed that individuals that had a positive emotional state had more energy. In order to keep participants in a positive state they were asked to learn how to “buy time” when feeling stressed or negative. Participants were able to “buy time” by taking slow abdominal breaths. Praising others also generated positive emotions and increased emotions. Finally, the study found that it was important to stay focused. Executives tend to pride themselves on the ability to multi-task, but individuals in the study that were more effective were able to spend 90 to 120 minutes focusing on one task.At Muster we are passionate about assisting nonprofits to meet their advocacy goals. We have heard from several nonprofit leaders that they don’t have time for advocacy. Hopefully these tips will help you save time and energy, and free up more time to live into your organization’s mission by focusing on advocacy efforts.