Let’s face it. There just aren’t enough hours in the day. Time management is a key component of your work as a leader of volunteers. We all need tips and tricks for keeping ourselves on track and saving time. Here are a few.
First of all, it’s important to understand our relationship to the time we have available.
We will often say that we don’t have time for something, when what we really mean is that we don’t actually want to do it! For example, we may say that we haven’t had time to write that long and complicated grant proposal, but we did have time to redesign our volunteer recruitment poster. Procrastination can be a killer!
Even if procrastination isn’t a problem for you, you may still get trapped in the “Urgent/ Not Important” quadrant of Eisenhower’s Matrix for time management. All those things that other people are clamouring for, but aren’t really vital for your program. “Do you mind running a report on this month’s volunteer hours for the Board meeting tonight?” I’m not saying that those things shouldn’t be done, but do they really need to be done by you? Who could you delegate them to?
If they are important and urgent, then do them, absolutely, but your goal is to spend most of your time in the Important/Not Urgent quadrant. If you can focus there, fewer things will end up both important and urgent. Meaning you will be a lot less stressed! The key is to delegate what’s urgent but not important. Those things that are neither important nor urgent? Don’t do them at all!
But what is important?
The hard part of this matrix is understanding what’s important and what isn’t when everything seems important. The key here is to be strategic. Review the organization’s vision and mission. Where do each of the tasks that you do fit into that mission? Is what you are spending time on leading directly toward the vision? If your vision is your destination and your mission the roadmap to it, take the fastest route. I’ve seen lots of organizations spend time and resources on things that sounded good, but were actually dead ends – or at best scenic roads to their vision.
Good time management requires planning.
To increase your productivity you need to plan your day appropriately. If you’re someone who takes time to get back into a task mentally after you’ve been interrupted, try to set up your schedule so that you have large blocks of clear time (ie: book all your meetings in the morning so your afternoon is free). You will still have interruptions, but there will be fewer of them and you’ll get more done. If, on the other hand, you’re someone who switches tasks regularly to keep yourself interested, arrange your schedule to allow you flexibility throughout the day. In other words, play to your strengths. Trying to force yourself into a routine that doesn’t match who you are is an exercise in futility and frustration.
The most vital part of time management is to focus on your priorities. When you plan your day, know what your important tasks are. Put those into your schedule first, before all the minor stuff fills it up. That way, even if you don’t get everything done, you will complete the things that are crucial. If you do that, you’ll finish your day with a strong sense of accomplishment. And then you can redo your recruitment poster with a clear conscience!