by Josh Jacobson

Ah, daylight saving time. That inane tradition Americans are told to blindly follow and the purpose for which no one can quite explain.  For everyone except those in Arizona and Hawaii, that is.  I’m not a huge fan of Arizona’s lawmakers these days, but I’m on board with their anti-DST stance.  This appears to be something that could go away forever, and few outside of owners of golf courses and amusement parks would complain. Spring forward, indeed.

No one likes losing an hour, especially on the weekend.  The busier you are, the more it seems like you’re losing an hour every week, whenever traffic is bad or a meeting goes long.  You look up and it’s 3pm.  Where did the day go?  Time is truly the only resource that is absolutely fixed.

CalendarIt took me a while to figure it out, but one of the most important activities I engage in each day is the management of my time.  I may own my own business, but I obey the big boss – my Outlook calendar.  That is a snapshot of my calendar to the right, with color coded entries and a special system of symbols that are meaningful to only me. It is a security blanket like no other, and my best accountability system.  Nothing that gets added to the calendar can be deleted, only moved forward until I get it done. It’s a rule.

I believe a well-established computerized system of time tracking is extraordinarily important, and something every nonprofit development department should mandate for all employees.  There are a number of good reasons:

  • Getting it Right the First Time – Be committed to never making scheduling errors.  No double-booking, or forgetting that after-work beer with colleagues, or neglecting an important donor’s birthday or anniversary.  With a system of time management, you are far less likely to embarrass yourself.  We could stop right now, as that’s important enough.  No collection of post-its and hand-written planners can hope to compete with a cloud-based calendaring system.
  • Assessing Return On Investment (ROI) – How long does it take you to perform various tasks? It is a question I often ask of employees in development departments and find that they are not quite sure.  Everything that happens in a development department can and should be tied directly to revenue-generating activity.  Calculating ROI is important when considering how to do more with less, increase revenue without adding expense, or double-down on a strategy that is working well.
  • Integrating New Processes – At times, I feel like I am in the business of figuring out how to help nonprofit professionals add to their plates.  For many, the fact remains that they must squeeze more into an already hectic week, and the only way to do that is to set weekly calendar goals.  When I know it will be a challenge to get to a new activity, I will create an anchor in my calendar – an activity that cannot be moved and must be completed no matter what. As a function of willpower, a calendar can be a best friend.

The term “accountability” has gotten a bum rap, taking on a negative connotation it doesn’t deserve.  A synonym of accountability is responsibility, something we all take on as nonprofit professionals, not only to our supervisors, but to the people who fund our nonprofits with their charitable support.  We owe it to our donors to be as effective and efficient as possible, and I know of no better way to do that than through effective time management.

I hate to keep this short, but I lost an hour this weekend and I’m a bit behind.

Three Questions to Consider This Week:

  1. Does your organization have an established system of time management? Is it optional? Why or why not?
  2. If you do utilize a system of time management, how often do you export data and analyze it?  What might you look for toward effectiveness and efficiency?
  3. How would you cluster your daily activities into four or five categories? If you needed to expand your focus on one, where might you look to trim?