Whenever I speak to anyone working in a small charity, the general impression I get is that they are overworked, underpaid and quite simply find there is not enough hours in the day. When I researched the topic of how small charities feel about fundraising, the majority said that lack of time was what held them back from achieving more with their fundraising.
Although I accept its hugely challenging to keep everything afloat, (especially within the current economic climate), there is usually scope to adjust how we approach our working day in order to create more space and time for activities that can really push things forward. Making choices to reduce your availability, say no, and create strong boundaries is often central to staying in control of your time.
Below are some tips based on my own experience, and which have been passed on to me by other far wiser beings than myself. Why not try implementing some of them to see if you can squeeze more positive action out of your day, whilst potentially reducing your stress levels?
- Stay in your lane. When you have an important project, task or activity that needs completing, try and stay focused, and avoid diluting your concentration. Do not take too much notice of what others are doing. Diluting your concentration could come in the form of procrastinating and talking a lot about something rather than getting on and doing it. It could also result in comparing yourself negatively to someone else. There is also a certain wisdom in keeping your own counsel about things you are doing- sometimes by talking about something a lot it can diminish its focus and power.
- Sometimes our perfectionism can be our worst enemy. And sometimes its ok for something to be ‘good enough’. Save your time and energy for the work that really is going to matter and make a difference, and limit time and effort into tasks that do not hugely matter.
- Be aware of your body’s natural rhythms. When do you feel most energised? Can you plan in more complex work for that time in your day when you feel most motivated?
- Block out regular times in the week to tackle certain kinds of work in response to your natural energy flows. Could Tuesday and Thursday mornings be your ‘head down time’ where you tackle bid-writing/ budgets or reports? Could Monday afternoons be your admin time, so that you feel more organised for the week ahead? Try organising your week into morning and afternoon blocks or zones, focusing on specific work areas and set to weekly re-occurring, thereby creating more structure in your week.
- Diarise ‘head-down’ time to complete those more demanding pieces of work that require deeper levels of focus, concentration and most importantly the need to be undisturbed. We easily give up our time for meetings but find it harder to block out time to do the real work where we can often make most progress in our job. Could working in a different setting such as a co-working space, café or library, help you to focus?
- Breaking your workflow can be hugely detrimental when you are trying to finish a piece of work. When you are working during your head down time, turn off your mobile phone and go to your PC's notifications settings to switch off alerts so you can concentrate. If you are office based, consider a friendly sign for your door asking to not be disturbed. Culturally this may feel difficult, but it will pay dividends in the long run as people realise that you are not continually available to them. Equally, consider scheduling regular times when your door is metaphorically open and you are available for anyone to chat through issues.
- Buy an A4 notepad that easily falls open flat. One of those hard backed journals is ideal. Take 15 minutes at the end of each day to plan your following day, writing down your list of jobs. Identify the quick wins- the two minute jobs, and try and get those done first so you feel you have made headway. Its satisfying and motivating when you can tick them all off in an hour.
- If you don’t already, experiment using digital planning tools such as Microsoft Planner (I love this one as it easy to use and free!). You can break down projects into tasks, delegate and put due dates on work, so that can stay on top of things and gain great satisfaction in ticking off jobs completed.
- Build your knowledge in one area- read books, blogs, videos- so much free information is available. Having more knowledge will help you to do your job better and feel more confident in how to approach your tasks.
- “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.” Mother Theresa
I like this sentiment because sometimes in many different areas of life we can be struck by paralysis in the face of what can seem an insurmountable challenge. Whether we are talking about the environmental crisis, or on a more granular level, our own workload, it is easy to feel defeated and give up.
However, if we take Mother Theresa’s analogy and apply it to those situations we can see that even small actions are progress. By tackling one small job at a time, you are having an impact and moving the needle forward even if it may not yet be hugely visible or obvious. The work pile is still going down.
However you approach your work, consider if there are things you could implement to lighten your load, or potentially re-rank your priorities so that you feel more productive and focused on activities that matter.
I would love to hear your own tips- have you had any breakthrough’s that have changed your working life for the better?
If you would like to share your experiences, access professional and peer support in an informal environment, the new 'Sparks' fundraising meet up is happening on the last Friday of the month at 11am. Currently free to join, it is a one hour session to connect with others, unwind, gain inspiration and support from other fundraisers. To sign up just register here and you will be sent joining info:) everyone is welcome!