Advancing Philanthropy

Management: Time, the Avenger

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illustration of a timer with a clock

After presenting “Challenging Conversations in a Changing Philanthropic Landscape” with Andrea McManus last March, I had every intention of writing a blog post about the inspiring AFP international conference in Baltimore. I was going to share, highlight and applaud!

Then work, volunteer commitments, family and out-of-town guests took precedence, eating away at my good intentions. Before I knew it, more than a month had flown by. It got me thinking. If someone like me, who prides herself on being a strong time manager, can get thrown off track from time to time, I’m probably not the only one.

So, I decided to refresh myself and then share with you my top 10 time management tips, plus four productivity apps. These essential tools got me back on track, and I am confident that they will do the same for you, whether it is spending more time with major donors and major-donor prospects or other key priorities.

1. Prioritize ruthlessly.

2. Do not fall victim to the “tyranny of the urgent” and lose focus.

3. Write in the morning. This is when your brain is freshest, and it will be easier to check that report, memo, letter or email off your list. If you wait until later in the day, there will be inevitable distractions, and it will be harder to concentrate (see point No. 2).

4. Brutally evaluate your schedule, reducing the number of meetings you attend. Are you showing up to your standing meetings out of habit? Do you need to be at every single one of these meetings every week?…

5. When you do have to attend the meeting, assess beforehand whether you need to be there the whole time. Making an appearance or sitting in on the relevant section are ways to buy back countless hours of your precious time.

6. Carve out at least two hours each week for major-gift fundraising activities. For example, book two one-hour morning time slots on your calendar every week (e.g., Tuesday and Thursday, 9–10 a.m.). NOTE: The following is one of my favorite articles because it spells out the difference between being busy and being productive:

7. Then, do the same for/with your CEO, board members and other key stakeholders.

8. Return calls to your talkative donors, board members, etc., at 9:45, 2:45, etc. Let them know that you have a commitment in 15 minutes and that you wanted to make sure you returned their important call as quickly as possible. Like point No. 2, this will buy back significant time.

9. Time box your activities. For more information about time boxing, read the fifth item in the following article:

10. Prioritize reading emails from key donors, your boss and direct reports, and do so only at the beginning and end of your day. The new term for the urge to immediately respond to emails is “workplace telepressure.” Here is an interesting recent article about how this behavior is unproductive and can be hazardous to your health:

And here are four useful productivity apps from a recent issue of Inc. magazine ( 201503/get-more-done-4-great-productivity-apps.html):

  • The Icukoo Charity Alarm Clock app lets you create and edit alarms. Bonus: If you ignore them, the nonprofit of your choice will benefit!
  • Workflow turns tasks into buttons for your phone’s home screen, making tedious activities one-touch operations.
  • IFTTT (If This, Then That) automates smartphone apps using “recipes.”
  • Timeful app (now part of Google) sends timely reminders about doing things you might otherwise forget or ignore, such as stretching if you’ve been at the computer too long, going to the gym, etc.

So, are you still reading, or did you run out of time? Happy time management, and may you, your major donors and your organization benefit from your newfound time!

Sidebar: And If You Have Time …

Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time by Brian Tracy (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2007), paperback,128 pages

Time Management from the Inside Out, Second Edition: The Foolproof System for Taking Control of Your Schedule—and Your Life by Julie Morgenstern (Holt Paperbacks, 2004), paperback, 304 pages

Martha H. Schumacher, ACFRE, CFRE, MInstF (AdvDip), is president of Hazen Inc. ( in Washington, D.C.

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