If a fire broke out at the Louvre—what art would the staff rush to save? Undoubtedly, the three great ladies — the Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, and the Mona Lisa. Likewise, when the fire of busyness breaks out at your nonprofit, what do you save from the fires that consume your time? What key actions do you do despite the blaze of urgent tasks that consume your days?
Successful time management requires two musts: setting priorities and executing them, despite the inferno of tasks to do. Priority setting is about being clear about what actions to hold on to and take regularly—no matter what. For nonprofits with a strategy to be funded by individual donations, key actions involve creating a new and continuing relationship with donors. Key actions change at different stages. If you don’t have enough donors, key actions are tasks to create new ones. If you have plenty of donors, key actions involve encouraging major gifts.
Knowing what you have to do despite all you might do is the first step to victory in time management. What key action brings the results you need and want to move you toward your goal?
What to do is the critical first step—the rest is execution. Experts agree that execution is the harder of the two musts. There are three key reasons for this:
Say no to important actions. Undoubtedly the staff of the Louvre would like to save every piece of art. Actively choose not to do some actions. You will face the consequences.
You will face criticism. Even if the Louvre staff does everything they can, someone will criticize them for failing to save the critic’s favorite.
Key actions challenge. To complete key actions you must move into new uncomfortable spaces. If key actions were easy, you would have assigned them to someone else or done them already. Key actions, by their nature, require self-growth and willpower. It is almost always easier to stay in your office than to call donors and meet new ones. Key actions require us to overcome fear and inertia.
Organizing your day to execute your key action is the second step to victory in time management, and it is a worthwhile challenge.
Time management is a challenge in every busy life. How can you manage your time? Find your key, your must-do actions. Then execute them with daily discipline. The good news is that when you take key actions and execute them, you gain peace of mind and more energy for the other tasks on your desk.
Karen Eber Davis provides customized advising and coaching around nonprofit strategy and board development. People leaders hire her to bring clarity to sticky situations, break through barriers that seem insurmountable, and align people for better futures. She is the author of 7 Nonprofit Income Streams and Let's Raise Nonprofit Millions Together.
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