By James D’Ambrosio

In professional circles, August has traditionally been a time when people take vacations, have some down time, and gear up for the year ahead. Taking this a step further, there are ways nonprofit staff can use this time to plan and organize for greater efficiency.

Managing work flow takes on added importance in the midst of funding cuts, reduced resources and increased service demands. And since so many depend on the work we do — service recipients, populations we advocate for, victims of abuse and natural disasters, etc. — we owe it to them to perform with optimal efficiency.   


A.) THE YEAR IN REVIEW: Take time to reflect on accomplishments during the past year and give yourself credit. Sometimes, pressed to meet never-ending demands, we can forget about the good work we have done. Positive reflection can provide perspective and keep you moving forward. If you’re still frustrated, consider the wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt: “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” We all have limits.

B)THE YEAR AHEAD: Think about your goals for the coming year. What can you do to increase your chances of achieving them? For example, if you have a heavy workload — who doesn’t? — consider focusing on fewer projects and doing them really well, instead of spreading yourself too thin. While multi-tasking is a reality, quality over quantity has real benefits.    

C.) A WEEKLY PLAN: On a smaller scale, here’s something I’ve done successfully which might be of help. On Fridays, about 3:30 or 4:00 p.m. as things wind down — assuming you’re not meeting a major deadline — take 30 minutes to assess/organize your work. On a sheet of paper, list all items to address the following week and keep it on your desk for reference. This reaps several benefits: 

1) On Monday morning, you’ll spend less time re-orienting to your work — you’ve got a plan right in front of you; 

2) As the week unfolds, cross off each item as it’s completed, prioritizing the most important tasks. This way, if something does fall off the shelf, it’s a less-important item;

3) With information right in front of you, it’s easier to stay focused and you’re less likely to forget intricate details which sometimes makes a BIG difference; and

4) As the week wares on and your to-do list shrinks, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and control over your work.

As you can see, I’m a strong believer in planning and organization. Too often, lack of careful thought and execution results in a frenetic rush to complete a project or meet a deadline — and that’s exactly when mistakes are most likely to occur. It also creates unnecessary stress that, if left unchecked, can lead to burnout and poor morale — two things nobody wants.


QUESTION TO READERS: What do you think of these ideas? What has been helpful in planning and organizing your work?

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