Let me start by saying I did not do track and field (but maybe I should have)
Track stars understand the concept of the finish line. When you cross it, you’re done.
You actually get to fully rest.
Every day are you racing towards an imaginary finish line?
When you don’t have a realistic finish line, you are constantly in stress out mode. You’re worried you’ve left something undone. You worry you’ve not put out enough work to satisfy your boss or your job. You worry you’re just… not doing enough!
What can you realistically get done in a day?
No matter what your to-do list says, you are not obligated to do it all… and it might really stress you out to look at all of the work you have to do.
Think about all of those open tabs on your browser. You know you’ve got them.
Think about how you have 5 people’s jobs: Volunteer coordinator. Appeal letter writer. Development Officer. E-newsletter editor. Events coordinator. Database expert. Sponsorship liaison, I could go on. This is too much work for one person to do. It is, in fact, a superjob.
Superjobs create open loops and no finish line for you. You can finish that newsletter, then the major donor needs a call. Then there’s that event you’re organizing. Then there’s a board retreat to coordinate.
How much does it stress you out to have all of those open loops instead of closed loops in your thoughts?
Apparently, quite a lot.
David Allen of Getting Things Done talks about how open loops can make you so unproductive! So, how do you get out of the open loops?
Here are three ways to make a finish line for yourself, and close those open loops starting right now:
1. Write out all the things you need to do. Just put them all out there.
2. Now, look at these things. Which ones need to be done NOW, by you? Which take less than 2 minutes to actually do?
3. Which of these things can be done, safely, by someone else? Could you systematize it and give it to an intern, a program person, a volunteer, or another person in your office? Or even a virtual assistant?
Next: Identify the best time to work on bigger projects.
Look at your calendar and block out time. Say, every Thursday at 2pm-3pm, to work on your book project, or major gifts thank you calls… you name it!
Where do you put the finish line each day?
Realize that there is a limit to what your brain can actually focus on after four hours of serious working each day. So, what will you spend your precious four hours on?
If you’ve made your priority list, then you know what you’re working on, and you know how urgent it is.
Since a lot of our fundraising work is never done, here’s an example of finish lines arranged by times:
- 9-10am: 1 hour focused on communications plan for end of year
- 10-11am: Call donors and say thank you
- 11-12pm: Write e-newsletter for Friday
- 1-2pm: Research grants
- 2-3pm: Call board members and ask for feedback on board retreat
Once you’ve done all of these things! You can rest easy knowing you’ve done all you can do for the day. Blocking out your calendar for these activities can help.
Have you ever been crushed under a demanding workload that seems to never end?
How have you handled this before? Let me know in the comments below!