A Time Management Guide for Nonprofits
By Eric Cormier
Nonprofit workers are assuming more responsibilities as they and other businesses continue to adjust to a challenging economy, and, as a result, the focus on time management has become even more critical for employers and employees who want to optimize workplace hours.
Now more than ever, most nonprofits operate on a lean budget with minimal resources at their disposal and employ staff that consists of paid employees and unpaid volunteers, but many lack sufficient resources to provide proper time management training. Employers and employees want to manage their time more effectively, but the irony is that cannot seem to find the time to focus on it and therefore they continue to be overwhelmed by their workload.
Following are several tips that can benefit both employers and employees:
Think Priority Management
An inability to prioritize multiple tasks effectively may be contributing to the time crunch. Therefore, evaluating and aligning priorities are important components of time management. Workers can create a matrix that separates tasks that are urgent from those that are of high importance, to determine the level of attention each one requires. Following are some prioritization guidelines:
Buffer Your Time
- Important, Not Urgent The best way to prioritize a task that is high in importance but low in urgency, such as networking or personal development, may be to set aside a specific time each day to handle it. This time specifically would be used to focus on that task, allowing the employee to make sure it is accomplished rather than being pushed aside by other matters that are both urgent and important.
- Urgent and Important Tasks high in urgency and importance are the ones that require immediate attention or action, such as emergencies or deadline-driven projects. These items should be handled first and given the appropriate amount of time and attention. It is essential to be discriminating and not to label everything this way.
- Urgent, Not Important A task high in urgency but low in importance, such as email, phone calls or someone popping into the office for a quick word, should be dealt with quickly and not ignored. However, they should not take up a lot of time.
- Not Urgent, Not Important It seems obvious that tasks low in urgency and importance should not take up valuable time needed for other matters. However, socializing with co-workers or focusing on a project you would like to do, but is not urgent, can become a real issue when managing time. Although it is certainly acceptable to take time out to chat with colleagues or take a break, that time should be measured, so it is not wasted.
Setting aside time during the day or week to focus on tasks that need attention may sound like a simple and easy idea, but it actually takes a great amount of self-discipline. Employees should schedule this block of time as they would an actual appointment. They must be disciplined enough to ignore ringing phones and emails to concentrate on the job at hand. Having this dedicated time will be a great asset, as long as it is used correctly.
Not Everything Is an Emergency
There are some employers and employees who believe that everything is urgent and should be handled immediately. Being on top of all issues that cross ones desk as soon as possible may seem like an admirable trait; however, it is also unrealistic and can inadvertently cause problems. Not all jobs can be completed quickly; most take some time, particularly if they are to be done right. It is important to understand the need and set realistic expectations for getting the job done. Often what seems like an emergency can wait.
Just Say 'No'
Many workers take on more than they can handle, often because they are afraid to say no. Yet it is counterproductive to fill ones to-do lists with a volume of work that cannot be accommodated properly, especially if it includes non-essential assignments. Responsibilities should be delegated whenever possible. Employees who are unsure about which projects are most critical or even necessary should talk with their manager. It is fine to be busy, but not being able to deliver on assignments is not helpful to anyone.
Managing ones time while wearing multiple hats and juggling numerous responsibilities can certainly be challenging, but embracing the above-mentioned tips and changing ones habits will surely improve overall time management.
Eric Cormier is a human resources specialist at Insperity, a national provider of human resources and business performance solutions. Insperitys clients include a wide range of nonprofit organizations. Call 800-465-3800 or visit www.insperity.com.