Yesterday I went to a brown bag lunch-and-learn deal all about how to prioritize. I signed up for the workshop because it had such a great title: When you are up to your neck in alligators, it's hard to remember that your original goal was to drain the swamp. This was a fantastic workshop and I thought some of the points were worth sharing.
Generally, I'm a pretty organized person. I'm left-brained; I scored pretty high as a "C" on my DISC profile, meaning I like organization, lists, systems, etc. I'm normally good at seeing both the forest and the trees and figuring out how to get through tree forest and avoid the underbrush that would trip me up.
That said, ever since I took over this job for real in October, I've felt on the verge of being overwhelmed. It's not easy to fundraise in a recession, but it's still possible. It's not easy to be a mostly one-woman development/PR department, but it's still possible. My problem is that when I get overwhelmed, I can become paralyzed. Forest. Trees. I'll plunge in, but let myself get distracted by the pretty flowers or the stream or whatever makes it easier.
This prioritizing thing has been on the forefront of my brain for a while. I've been listening to what people say about it, from the advice of one of our board members, to veterans in this field and now this workshop.
Here are some great tidbits from what I've been hearing lately:
1. You can lose 2-3 hours of work time a week because of having a cluttered desk.
2. Follow the OHIO principle -- Only Handle It Once. Maybe it's hard to handle something only once, but if you can reduce this from 4-6 times to 2-3 times, it's still an improvement.
3. Don't live in your inbox. Turn the ding off that tells you when you get new mail. Turn off the little box that pops up in your corner. Organize your e-mail with folders so that your inbox never has more than a certain number of emails in it. (One I'm adding... deal with it and delete it if it doesn't need to be archived.) I read/heard somewhere that it takes 15-20 minutes for a person to get their concentration back after checking email/blackberry/phone, etc.
4. Most people do their best work in the mornings. Therefore, don't meet in the mornings. Push meetings into the afternoon when the day starts to drag.
5. If you are the only one screaming for a job to get done, maybe it's not that important. Sometimes important jobs are the self-directed ones, but really, most of the time, they aren't.
So, how am I using these tips?
Since the move into the new office, I'm determined to have an uncluttered desk. Yesterday, I spent a bunch of the afternoon dealing with boxes of stuff that got bequeathed to me. I circular-filed a lot of it and have a new pile that I need to go through a second time to really decide what to keep and then where that goes. I'm sure this will be a constant battle to keep things under control, but I know that when they are, I'll feel more in control.
I also started going through my inbox. Right now, mine's got 485 emails in it. I'd like to set 100 as the goal. I know it's going to take me a while to get there, but I'm being pretty ruthless with this.
I'm sure this will continue to take time, but I'm going to fight off these alligators.