How to Get Things Done And Move Your Nonprofit To the Next Level

My friends often ask me, “How do you get so much done?” I spent some time analyzing my work habits, and came up with this post. I hope these tips will help you rethink your approach to your work. You may find you can accomplish more for your nonprofit’s mission – with less effort!

Make a List

Having a million ideas buzzing around in your head is overwhelming. And not knowing where to start can be downright immobilizing. To avoid these traps, I make a list of all the things I’d like to get done today. I include large projects (draft fundraising plan) and small tasks (schedule donor meeting). Generally my list is too long for a single day, and that’s fine. The point is to get the to-do list out of my head so I can begin the real work.

make a list

Here’s a small step to take right away…

Write down three things you would like to accomplish today for your nonprofit. Ideally one of them is “large” and several are small. If you’re able to make at least some headway on all three, you’re on the right track!

Start With the Hardest Projects

To boost my productivity, I start my hardest projects first – the ones that require the most creativity, brain-power, concentration and energy. If not the “hardest” projects, I certainly tackle those I believe will have the biggest impact.

It’s tempting to start with the easy projects (and check them off the list!) but as the day wears on, you may lose steam, or feel like you've accomplished so much already, you can put off the hard projects for another day. Do this too many times in a row and the hard work won’t get done.

Here’s a small step to take right away…

Take a moment to identify your “hardest” or “most important” project. What’s that item on your to-do list that will make a big impact for your organization? Draft a campaign proposal? Update your case for support? Whatever it is, make a plan to start this project today—creating an outline doesn’t feel overwhelming so it’s a great way to start.

Manage Your Email (Before it Manages You)

We’ve all read those online articles about not checking email first thing in the morning. I was not an early adopter of this strategy but now I’m full in. Early morning is, by far, my most productive time of day, so I don’t want to “waste” this time checking and responding to emails. (Does anyone really care if I return their email at 6:00AM?) Instead, I reserve the first 2 hours of my day to work on the impactful projects described above.

It’s also efficient to block out certain times of day to check email rather than replying to everything the minute it hits your inbox. I silence email alerts so I’m not distracted all day long. If someone needs an immediate answer, they’ll generally send a text.

Here’s a small step to take right away…

First, turn off the email notification sound on your computer. Here’s how to do this in Outlook. Then, schedule time in your calendar to check email, say 10:00AM and 4:00PM. Managing your email in blocks of time rather than throughout the day will keep you focused and boost your productivity.

Stop Trying to Be Perfect

Seriously, no one’s perfect. Not only is perfection an impossible standard, trying to make everything perfect takes too much time. I could spend hours editing, rewriting and tweaking this blog post but, even then, it wouldn’t be perfect. A more efficient way? I write until it’s “good enough” and then ask a friend to edit my work. This saves me time and still ensures I’m providing the quality information you and my other my readers expect. This approach works for all kinds of projects, including presentations, donor communications, board meeting prep and others. Try running your projects past a colleague to create your best work without needing to be perfect!

Here’s a small step to take right away…

First, think about your current projects. Perhaps you’re preparing for a major donor meeting and would love a second opinion on your plan? Then, think about your colleagues and who might be helpful to you. Consider your broader network, too—don’t limit yourself to only your nonprofit colleagues.

What do you do to boost your efficiency? Please share in the Comments box below.

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