Are you giving yourself enough time to be successful?

Wisk Timer.png

Like many couples, my wife Ashley and I enjoy cooking. Especially on weekends and holidays when we have the time and energy to focus our attention on new and interesting dishes. We don’t necessarily put a ton of planning into these meals. It typically starts late in the afternoon when we’re getting hungry and have grand visions of a relaxing meal and glass of wine while watching the sunset.

We casually comb through magazines and cookbooks, or come up with something interesting on our own. Rarely do we ever seem to have all of the desired ingredients on hand, so we improvise, or run to the store and grab a few things. Then we hit the kitchen, open a bottle of wine, and start cooking.

The next thing we know, the bottle of wine is empty, we have 20 minutes left on the oven timer, and it’s 10 o’clock! How’d that happen? Fortunately, it’s not a week night and we’ve had a great time, so who cares?

Most of the time we’re satisfied with the outcome, sometimes blown away, and occasionally a little disappointed.

Unfortunately, whenever we want to make the good stuff again or host guests for dinner, we either can’t remember any of the great meals we’ve made and fall back to one of our old standbys, or we do remember but can’t recall precisely how we made them, so they never turn out quite as good as we remember.

So what does this have to do with your work for a nonprofit?

The answer lies in whether you're merely satisfied with your results, or are regularly blown away. If you're not consistently improving on past performance and repeating your wins, you may not be giving yourself enough time to be successful.

Do you wait until you’re hungry to make a plan?

Whether you’re responsible for fundraising, marketing, programming, or the whole organization, if you wait until the equivalent of hunger pangs sets in before making a plan, you may be giving yourself too little time, or it may be too late to achieve your grand vision.

If you're reading this in October and you still haven't set your plans for your year-end fundraising, you're cutting it awfully close. It's 7 p.m. and you still haven't figured out what's for dinner! If you don't get busy quickly, it might mean another night of mac and cheese.

Unless yours is a new role, you should know what many of your activities will be for each new year. Go ahead and book them in advance on an annual calendar and proactively set aside time to do sufficient planning well in advance of when work should begin. If it normally takes two weeks to plan an activity, give yourself four.

Do you monitor your progress?

Though the watched pot never boils, the kitchen not casually monitored may go up in smoke!

Whether it's a one-off campaign, a strategic plan, or your mission, there's a common trap many nonprofits fall into—beginning work without first determining how to accurately monitor progress or measure impact. When you do this, inevitably steps are skipped making it impossible to know whether progress is being made. And then it feels too late to do anything about it.

Part of the reason I advise to give yourself twice as much planning and prep time than you typically would is so you can take the time to design a plan that takes these often overlooked things into consideration.

Don't settle for "we'll track clicks" or "we'll know how many people go through our program." Rather, consider what the ultimate goal is—donations, changed behavior, etc.—and give yourself enough time to determine ahead of time how you will monitor whether you're on the right track to accomplish your goals.

Do you know how to recreate your successes?

In addition to giving yourself more than enough time for planning, book time on your calendar for analysis of each activity. Analysis is one of those things we all say is important and have every intention of doing, but it never seems to happen because something more urgent comes along.

Go ahead and book time now before you've allowed another project to take up that time. Treat this time as sacred, and never let it slip. Only by writing down the “recipe” and then recording the outcome, will you be able to make good decisions about what to do next time, and avoid repeating the same mistakes.

Are you giving yourself enough time to be successful?

I know what you’re thinking. “This all sounds fine in theory, but I still have too much work to do. It would be nice to take time to plan, monitor, and analyze my work, but it’s simply not practical.” I’ve heard this a thousand times.

While it’s true you can only accomplish so much work in a day, it’s also true that the more work you cram into a day, the lower the quality and poorer the results of that work. The question becomes whether you can actually accomplish more by doing less and being thoughtful in the work you do accomplish.

In my experience, the answer is a resounding yes.


Image Credit: 夏天