Making time for time management: Five secrets from productive people to increase efficiency

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I have never been a volunteer manager, but I love to talk shop with them because we understand one another’s worlds.

Their job, like mine as a project manager, is to be the ultimate mom. Part liaison, part strategy, more than a little administration and lots of list making. You are almost always on call, constantly interrupted and usually spinning a dozen plates at one time. At best, these roles are challenging and exciting. At worst, they are harried and harrowing.

One of my solutions to deal with all this responsibility has been to befriend productive people and demand that they impart to me their wise ways. I also adopted the habit of hiding out in what I call my “cone of silence” chair, a short period of time where I can quietly organize my thoughts and tasks.

In that vein, here is some advice from five different types of productive people on how best to manage your time while dealing with the myriad of problems that face a nonprofit daily.

1. The Project Manager, Jeff Glasco/Front Flip general manager

Jeff has done a little bit of everything in the business world, from product and project management to business development to his current gig as the general manager of Front Flip.

“Your job as a manager is to walk into a room full of chaos, and ask the question: if nothing else gets done today, what has to happen?”

Prioritize your tasks and get to work, starting at the top.

2. The Writer, Christine Taylor-Butler/author

Christine is an accomplished writer who has written both educational and fictional children books, as well as everything in-between.

“Be selfish about your time. You can’t believe that you can create at any time. Figure out when you are most productive and motivated, your golden hour, and fight like crazy to keep it.”

I have learned that I can’t plan, strategize, blog or brainstorm at any hour of the day. Therefore, when you have your golden hour, turn off your phone, put on headphones and be alone with your work.

3. The Systems Geek, prefers anonymity

Our anonymous tipper is a tech extraordinaire with experience in operational management and computer programming.

“Your priorities are defined by what you’re not going to get done in order to do them.”

A former boss of mine taught me to turn my to-do list into a spreadsheet. First step is to enter all tasks, then rate how long I thought they would take. Follow that by listing who they were contingent on, assign due dates and finally prioritize and schedule a review. In my initial ignorance, I thought the exercise tedious and unnecessary. I now know I couldn’t have been more wrong. You will too.

4. The Coffee Shop Manager, Daniel Paris/Starbucks store manager

I worked for Daniel in the second busiest Starbucks in the state of Texas. The pace was always maniac, as we served a clientele of I-35 bikers, truck drivers plus Dallas and Austin commuters.

“Something will always be left undone. Accept it and figure out a something that you can live with.”

A little realism goes a long way.

5. The Mother, Lisa Spady/my mom

She is the smartest person in the whole world.

“Whatever you do daily dominates.”

I’m relearning this at my own cost, as I make a feeble attempt to get in shape. Whatever you choose to do, do it the best you can. The best advice I’ve received, which was echoed from a myriad of people, has been to be intentional. Don’t just react. Start your day early, with a realistic list and stick to the priorities.

You can lose your life putting out fires. But 10 minutes in a cone of silence chair could make all the difference.

This article originally appeared on the VolunteerMark blog and is reprinted with permission

Anna Spady is a Guest Blogger for VolunteerMark. You can read more of her writing on her blog, Out-Ana-Limb.

Photos (from top) via iStock.com. All photos used with permission.

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