Time Management = :( ?

Do you ever have days where you feel this way?  Or maybe even months? My biggest challenge in launching Fundraising Nerd  has been managing my time.  I am happy to say that I have greatly improved since launch! That should be reflected in more frequent blog postings. Here are a few tips that have helped me:

1) Learn from mistakes

It's impossible to start something new and not blunder from time to time.  My strategy has been to accept this fact, own up to what's not working, apologize as needed (sometimes to myself, too), and learn the lesson(s). And as long as I am learning a lesson, then I can consider it a useful experience and I can move on.


2) Pay attention to scope

I am classic at scope creep (letting a project get bigger than originally agreed-upon parameters).  I get excited about problem-solving!  And sharing information!  And sometimes that excitement leads me out of scope.

In the case of a busy development professional, scope might be considered "the acceptable level of input to get effective outcomes".  For example, most organizations should minimize time spent writing direct mail appeals or planning events, in favor of face-to-face donor work, due to the much higher ROI from individual solicitations.

In this example, scope might be "producing a good-enough direct mail appeal that will renew 10% of our donors".  But it is so easy to get sucked into making the best direct mail piece ever (scope creep!), rather than writing a fine one and getting out of the office to see major donors.  I saw Kim Klein speak at the Oregon Nonprofit Leaders Conference (hands-down, one of the best conferences I have attended!) recently, and she commented on this exact issue, saying, "Dare to be adequate."

3) Inflate time estimates

I am learning to temper my natural optimism (which overall, is a great way to approach data management challenges, as it fosters creative thinking to get over "it can't be done" syndrome).  However, optimism stinks when it comes to estimating how many hours something will take, and how long the timeline should be.  Wait?  Aren't those concepts redundant?  Actually, no.  The first is the literal amount of time required. The latter is about anticipating delays: hand-offs/interactions between people, which always slow a system down; competing priorities and sudden emergencies; and time to be sick or enjoy a sunny day.


4) GTD works

For me, at least.  I am a big fan of the Getting Things Done methodology, and rely on it to manage all aspects of achieving my goals.  And lately, I have been adding to this system with ZTD (Zen to Done).  To manage my projects and tasks using the GTD framework, I use OmniFocus on my iPhone and iPad.  I've been an OmniFocus devotee for about two years now, and as long as I actually use it, it never lets me down.

5) Limit meetings and social gatherings.

This is a hard one if you enjoy spending time with people.  But there are only so many hours in day, and so much energy for expending.  As an ambivert, I love my people time, but I also need down time to recharge... oh, yeah, and to get some work done too.  By setting a limit on the number of interactions I will schedule in the week, I can control my calendar instead of letting it control me.


What are your time management tips?  I'd love to hear from you in the comments.