time management tipsThe Best Time Management Tips for Increased Focus

We recently published our 2020 Volunteer Management Progress Report, and we found that volunteer managers are citing a lack of time as one of their top challenges. We can write about time management tips and productivity hacks week after week; however, the report clearly shows that you need easy wins that will help you focus your time and efforts so that you are working at your peak productivity levels.  

Read on for time management tips that have worked for our small team here at Tobi Johnson and Associates and VolunteerPro and that can work for you and your nonprofit too!  

Set Boundaries  

Before you can start managing your time more effectively, you need to take an honest look at your workday and find out where you are losing precious moments that you can’t get back.  

Once you know where you need to set boundaries you can start with the following tips:  

Minimize Interruptions: Block out time on your calendar and guard it with your life! Share your calendar with your colleagues so they know when you are available for drop-in’s and when you are busy. If they see that you have time blocked off on your calendar, they are less likely to pop in for a chat about your weekend plans. Also, close your office door and/or put up a do not disturb sign and teach colleagues to respect this boundary!   

Agree to Team Communication Norms: Work with your leadership team to figure out who needs to be aware of what is going on. Does Sally in IT need to know that Fred in Development is out sick for the day? Most likely, no. Set up guidelines for who needs to be included in specific types of emails.  This will help you de-clutter your inbox, and your mind, so you can focus on what you need to do! Not Fred’s unfortunate case of food poisoning!   

Set a Timer: Certain work-related tasks can easily drain hours of your day, without feeling like you got anything done (I’m looking at you, social media and google search results!). The fact is, social media planning and internet research are typically critical tasks that help you get your job done, but if left unchecked you may fall into a rabbit hole that is hard to dig yourself out of! To keep track of the time you spend on social media and the internet, set a timer every day and when it goes off, you’re done! No more finding yourself on your cousin’s, ex-girlfriends, mom’s social media feed, scrolling through pictures of her volunteer abroad experience because you just know you can learn something from her experience!  

Use Tech to Your Advantage 

Put Everything in One Place: Use a file-sharing system to post logos, boilerplate language, approved photos, brochures, social media posts, FAQ’s, etc. This ensures that anyone who needs these items can access them without having to come to you for assistance. Also, work with your marketing team to create a communications style guide that includes graphics and text rules (fonts, text sizes, colors, etc.). This will help ensure your team is putting out branded materials, without having to wait for approval. 

Configure Your Email Inbox: Make your email work for you! Work with your IT team and see if you can create settings that will sort and file incoming emails. Create auto-replies for when you’re out of the office for a day or longer, and in those emails let people know when they can expect a response from you, and who they can contact if they need immediate assistance.  Turn off desktop notifications, and set rules for when you will check and respond to non-urgent emails. Much like social media, email is a distraction and if you don’t set those boundaries you will find yourself lost in a sea of email.  

Create Standardized Training and Supervision Materials: All staff that works with volunteers must know how to train and supervise volunteers effectively. Spend some time creating materials t that will teach them about their role in supporting volunteers. Upload video recordings, slides, handouts, position descriptions, etc., and make sure every staff member has access to this information, so you aren’t constantly fielding volunteer performance issues, orientation questions, scheduling questions, etc.  

Meetings and Strategic Planning  

Set Your Course for Success: Don’t fly by the seat of your pants! Every year you should spend some time putting together an annual calendar that includes volunteer recruitment campaigns, volunteer training dates, volunteer recognition activities, communications campaigns, professional development, special events/volunteer activities, etc. After your calendar is complete, develop a specific, full project plan for each task on your calendar. You will need to figure out who is responsible for each task and deadlines so you can share with your team and they know what to expect for the coming year and fit it into their work plan. There is nothing worse than a last-minute request to your marketing team to help to design and print a flyer that needed to be done yesterday!  

Meetings: We’ve all been in endless meetings, and I am certain you can identify people at work that like to drag meetings on and on and on. Keep your meetings moving quickly by hosting them standing up. Huddle with your team versus siting a big table in your board room. Better yet, take advantage of a nice day and schedule a walking meeting. If you are worried about missing out on key information you need to take action on, record your conversation (with everyone’s permission of course!) and take notes later. Not only will your team be more inspired by getting outside, but you will get in some exercise and feel refreshed to complete your other tasks for the day. Not drained as per usual after a long meeting!  

Batch Tasks  

Group Similar Tasks: Don’t waste precious brain time switching between tasks! If you are in the middle of writing a grant report and switch to check your email, you lose your focus, and it can take an average of 15 minutes to get back into the swing of that grant report! If you batch your tasks and complete them as a group, you won’t lose the time you spend switching your attention. 

Schedule Regular Tasks: Running a volunteer program, there are regular, standing tasks that need to occur. From interviews, onboarding, and training, standardize some of your regular tasks to save yourself some time. Include everything on your annual calendar. Let’s say you decide to host a Volunteer Orientation on the first Wednesday of every month. Assign staff and/or volunteers to help. Invite anyone interested in volunteering to come in and learn more about your program. Make sure you vary your schedule to include day and evening orientations and consider adding a weekend orientation once or twice a year, which will appeal to a diverse range of potential volunteers. 

Want More Insight Into Top Challenges?

Dive into the full report here, and take note of recent volunteer management best practices and commit to making some changes in your  volunteer program.  

Perhaps you want access to more digital tools to offer online volunteer orientations. Maybe you have been thinking about going for your CVA, but your boss didn’t think it would increase your skill set enough to be worth the investment. Are you still tracking volunteer hours on an Excel spreadsheet?! Use the report data to show the impact a robust volunteer CRM can have on your program.  

At the very least, share the relevant information with your leadership so they are aware of how your organization measures up to others. They just might be inspired by your tenacity and surprise you with the resources you need to meet your professional goals!  

Share Your Key Takeaways in the Comments!  

Do you have any other time management tips that have helped you make the most of your day?  Please share them in the comments!