Are you too busy or are you just prioritizing?

time1Welcome to O.D. Fridays at DonorDreams blog. Every Friday for the foreseeable future we will be looking more closely at a recent post from John Greco’s blog called “johnponders ~ about life at work, mostly” and applying his organizational development messages to the non-profit community.

In a post titled “Take Your Time,” John talks about the difference between not having time and not taking the time to do important things. I especially love how he starts his post off with a quote from The Merovingian in The Matrix, who said: “Who has time? Who has time? But then if we do not ever take time, how can we ever have time?”

I’ve been stewing on this for days because if I had a nickel for every time I heard a non-profit professional say something about not having enough time to do something, then I’d be a very rich man. Here are a few very real examples:

  • I didn’t have time to recruit an annual campaign committee and engage them in writing a plan.
  • I don’t have time to work on adding a major gifts initiative to our agency’s resource development program. And don’t get me started on planned giving.
  • Critique meeting? Are you kidding? We don’t have time to do that. We’re already late for the next special event.
  • I didn’t get around to writing an annual performance plan for my direct reports because there just wasn’t enough time.

I am the first person to point out that the non-profit community is severely under-resourced, and this means time is a precious commodity for non-profit professionals who are wearing multiple hats. HOWEVER . . . John pulls no punches when he says: “When we say we don’t have the time to do something, what we’re really saying is that something is not a priority.”

So, I find myself wondering:

  • Why is a written annual campaign plan (aka project management plan) not a priority?
  • How can it not be a priority to write a performance management plan for your direct reports?
  • What can be more important than working on complex fundraising tools that will bring in more funding?

time2I will be the first person to admit that I sometimes find myself practicing “avoidance behavior;” however, I know that this isn’t productive. More importantly it is destructive behavior and something that a non-profit organization cannot afford.

Do you find yourself routinely saying: “There just aren’t enough hours in the day to . . .”? If so, then I strongly suggest that you do an informal self assessment. You can accomplish this by doing the following:

  • Draw a line down the middle of a piece of paper,
  • List all of the things you find yourself saying that you don’t have time to do on one side,
  • List all of the things you decided to do that same day on the other side of the paper, and
  • Go item by item and ask yourself:  “Was this more important than . . .”

You may just discover that you’re not prioritizing your time effectively. Or you may not. Regardless of the outcome, I think this process is good to go through periodically just to make sure you’re prioritizing your time effectively.

If you do go through this exercise and discover that you are doing a good job with prioritizing your time, then please stop saying that you don’t have enough time. Own the fact that you have limited time and need to make tough decisions about what gets accomplished. Once you start doing this, you might be surprised at how many people start telling you that what you’re deciding not to do is very important. Once THAT starts happening, then you have achieved the necessary leverage to turn the tables and ask them to please lend a hand with what they have just described as a very important task.

How can they say ‘NO’?

Do you find yourself saying that you don’t have enough time? How do you ensure that you’re prioritizing effectively? Please scroll down and share your best practices with your non-profit friends and family in the comment box below. We can all learn from each other.

Here’s to your health!

Erik Anderson
Founder & President, The Healthy Non-Profit LLC!/eanderson847

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